Euripides "Helen"

Date 18th October 2012
Society Wheathampstead Dramatic Society
Venue Memorial Hall, Wheathampstead
Type of Production Play
Director Malcolm Hobbs


Author: NovaHorley

The combination of Euripides and Frank McGuinness is not a natural match made in heaven – however the result was a sometimes amusing play, which was well-acted by the main principals.
I thought the set worked well – and loved the Egyptian Gods on either side of the door, and the sand and sky – I almost expected to see camels striding across the undulating sands! The only additional thing I would have liked to have seen was some sort of back drop to the inside of the house when the door was open – compared with the rest of the set it was a little bland.
Sound effects were very good – the storm in both instances was very effective and set the scene well – the second one was a jolt to the senses, but all the better for it. I thought it ended slightly abruptly particularly the opening storm – I would have liked to hear it fade out gradually, but it was nicely achieved.
Costumes were innovative, but worked well, I loved Theonoe’s kaftan, it was such a rich splash of colour amongst the other more neutral shades.
Irene Morris made an excellent Helen – she acted it well, and got a wealth of facial expressions and vocal inflections, which brought the character alive, her white and then black dresses were lovely, and she had a queenly bearing which gave the part gravitas, despite several tongue-in-cheek lines.
Irene was well-matched by Steve Leadbetter as her erstwhile husband Menelaus – Steve gave the character depth and humour. Again there were several near comic moments which were a contrast to the more weighty considerations. I liked the way these two interacted and also addressed their speeches to the audience where necessary, thus engaging us more.
There were two extremely good comic performances – which lightened the atmosphere and gave us some laughs – they were from Pip Dowdell as the Gatekeeper – she delivered some excellent language which at times was rather near to the knuckle, but not offensive, and the crossover apron and turban style washerwoman head scarf all added to the incongruity of the character in Egypt, but Pip pulled it off and I loved it.
The other was Peter Phillips in the role of Menelaus Servant. The way he spoke and the inflections made a super character, and his sometimes wry comments to Menelaus created another dimension to the proceedings.
Robin Langer was the very autocratic king Theoclymenes, but again mixed in with the autocracy were some lighter and amusing asides – which gave good contrasts in his portrayal.
Julie O’Shea gave us a nicely crafted portrayal as Theonoe, the fey sister of the King, she was very regal and certainly looked lovely, whilst delivering her prophecies.
The Greek Chorus of Julie O’Shea, Viv Fairley, Sarah Huggard and Pip Dowdell backed Helen nicely.
Viv Fairley and Sarah Huggard took the parts of Castor and Pollux, with some very inventive masks, their entrance at the end created added interest.
I liked the way the cast came through the audience at times, it created more dimensions and interest than if they had just used the stage.
A different play, and quite a brave choice, as it is not everyone’s cup of tea, but I enjoyed it, and really appreciated the performances, the humour and the way the cast engaged the audience, which is a testament to the quality of actors that a small society can command. Well done to you all.