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Troilus & Cressida at Shakespeare’s Globe

Leigh Hatts

Troilus and Cressida is one of Bankside's local plays. William Shakespeare took the tale from Chaucer who had dedicated his version to John Gower, a resident in the Southwark Priory precinct.

Shakespeare was familiar not only with Gower's own work which he reused but also his splendid tomb in the parish church which we know as Southwark Cathedral. Gower is even given a key role in Pericles written a little later than this play.

Last year saw the Gower anniversary celebrations so it's timely to be able to see the rarely performed Troilus and Cressida at the new Globe for the first time.

Those in the audience who have been brought up in Britain watching Saturday night television game shows might find it difficult to see Matthew Kelly in the lead. As Pandarus he is not immediately recognisable but his voice is.

By the end of the evening you realise that his timing is very good and his confident performance receives the biggest ovation. Joining in enthusiastcally are overseas visitors who do not know of his popular star status.

It is possible that his name on the bill could bring many Londoners forced to holiday at home by the credit crunch to the Globe and Shakespeare for the first time.

Kelly takes his bow with co-star Paul Hunter whose clown role as Thersites is played with energy and dexterity to audience delight.

Troilus and Cressida may just give their names to the play rather than be the dominant characters but the roles are played delightfully by Paul Stocker (Doctors and Casualty) and Laura Pyper (Holby City and The Bill).

There are plenty of snap battle scenes or such diversions as an instant market to keep you awake in this ancient tale set in the latter years of the Trojan War. It maybe helpful to know at the start that the Trojans are the ones with the purple skirts, while the Greeks wear blue. The set cleverly manages to become a tent and a bedchamber. The accompanying musicians add to the atmosphere.

Even the conclusion is a surprise. The cast unites not with a dance but a more noisy activity.

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