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Phedre

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Bell Shakespeare’s aim is to take a modern perspective on the timeless truths of classic plays. In Peter Evan’s direction of the rarely told French classic Phedre, the company mission statement rings true in the all consuming nature of a love that knows no bounds.

Catherine McClements shines as the sick-with-love Phedre, the distraught wife of proclaimed dead King Theseus (Marco Chiappi) who is driven to madness after harbouring her lust for her stepson Hippolytus (Edmund Lembke-Hogan). She confesses her predicament to the nurse Oenone (Julie Forsyth) whose encouragement sees Phedre declare her love to a horrified Hippolytus.

Complications arise when it’s revealed Hippolytus is carrying his own love-struck secret in his passion for the captive Aricia (Abby Earl), and that King Theseus isn’t in fact dead. Ted Hughes’ translation of Jean Racine’s 17th century Greek tragedy allowed for lighter moments weaved through the tale of the jealousy and frustration of forbidden love. McClements also gets some serious costume props for throwing her broken heart across the stage in some killer stilettos.

Anna Cordiengley’s set in ruins bundles the characters together and heightens the claustrophobic nature of their feelings; the cracked roof allowing for the vengeful gods to swoop in and control their fate. It’s unnerving, yet necessary.

Phedre’s opening act sets the tone for an affecting and passionate performance as we meet the characters through a deadlock delivery. The cast work together as a tight ensemble, faultlessly carrying the lyrical language from start to end without any sign of flailing.

Phèdre plays at the Malthouse Theatre until June 2. For tickets visit 2013season.bellshakespeare.com.


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