basking in a Greek sun

Last Sunday was a beautiful sunny day. Was I outdoors basking in the sun?

No.

But I was basking in the sun – a Greek sun in a darkened cinema.

I went to see another wonderful NT Live presentation – Phedre.

Phedre is a 17th century Greek tragedy by French playwrite Jean Racine and this production uses a superb free verse translation by acclaimed British poet Ted Hughes.

The National Theatre production stars Helen Mirren in the title role, and was directed by Nicholas Hyntner with a stunning set design by Bob Crowley.

Phedre is the second wife of Theseus – King Of Athens who is missing at sea – presumed dead. Struck by the Olympian deity Venus, she has fallen in love with her stepson – Hippolytus, a handsome noble warrior. Pained so much by her unlikely desire she confesses this love to her nurse Oenone, and later on, foolishly, to Hippolytus himself. Unfortunately Hippolytus has been struck by the goddess Venus too, falling for the grandaughter of his family’s arch enemy. Theseus makes a surprise return from the gates of Hell and after discovering the intrigue banishes Hippolytus to sea where he is struck by the god Neptune and killed. Phedre upon learning of the tragedy herself succumbs. What drama! what tragedy! what theatrical delight!

Helen Mirren is splendid as Phedre, he voice conveying all the pain, desire, happiness and sadness – the ups and downs of the part are pretty full on, and she tackles it with relish, triumphantly. Dominic Cooper (of Mamma Mia fame) is very good as the handsome, arrogant Hippolytus and Margaret Tyzack as the nurse Oenone is delightful as an over the top worry wart. The rest of the cast all give fine performances particularly John Shrapnel with his great monologue describing Hippolytus horrific bloody death by a huge sea monster.

Bob Crowley’s monumental modernist design of a vast palace veranda facing the sea was visually arresting, and Paule Constable’s lighting captured the  Mediterranean sunlight brilliantly.

The 3 NT Live presentations I have see so far have all been great experiences, the chance to see some terrific London theatre in the comfort of your local cinema screen very rewarding.

I recommend all to go see the upcoming screenings.

Dominic Cooper and Helen Mirren

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Filed under film review, Theatre

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