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A Ukrainian twist on an ancient Greek tragedy

Director Jeremy Davies on the upcoming play at Friern Barnet’s Incognito Theatre

Flyers for the production of The Trojan Women at the Incognito Theatre in Friern Barnet

Incognito Theatre in Friern Barnet is bringing to the stage an exciting modern adaptation of Euripides’ Greek tragedy The Trojan Women, written by the poet and playwright Caroline Bird, originally produced at the Gate Theatre in 2012, but setting it within the context of the ongoing war in Ukraine.

While remaining faithful to the original tragedy’s overall structure, Bird has reworked the play to create a more intimate contemporary feel that is accessible to a modern audience. The setting is a requisitioned mansion that has been turned into the mother and baby unit of a prison hospital. In this strange space, Troy’s elite women struggle with their fallen status as slaves of the victorious Greeks as they await their fate. Among them is the ‘Chorus’, a young single pregnant woman handcuffed to a bed.

As the tragedy unfolds, comparisons with Russian atrocities towards Ukrainian civilians come to mind. At the conclusion of our play, Marta Sendak, a Ukrainian refugee who the director of our play is hosting with her two young children under the Homes for Ukraine scheme, will step forward to sing the Ukrainian folk song Plyve Kacha, the lyrics being a heartrending dialogue between a mother and her soldier-son who is on his way to the front, a situation as poignant today as it was in Ancient Greece.

When Euripides wrote his tragedy in 415 BCE, Athens was in the midst of a protracted war with neighbouring Sparta, a war which Athens would eventually lose. Among the many atrocities in the Peloponnesian War, Athens had the male inhabitants on the island of Melos killed and the women and children enslaved as punishment for siding with the enemy. The extent to which Euripides’ tragedy was a response to Athens’ ruling elite for this appalling crime is much debated by modern scholars, a debate our production has entered by linking our play to the war in Ukraine.

Incognito Theatre is well named, as it lies hidden among residences and next to a medical clinic. Its patron is David Jason who, before he became one of our country’s foremost TV actors, began his love of theatre on our stage. Incognito stages six plays a year, with The Trojan Women running from 21-27 May. Tickets are available via the website:

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