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Helen at Shakespeare’s Globe

Marion Marples

This play, originally by Euripedes and in a new version by Frank McGuinness, is doubly timely, as it deals with both the futility of war and is a follow-up to the recent production of Troilus and Cressida.

Penny Downie and Paul McGann
Penny Downie and Paul McGann (Photo: Keith Pattison)

The conundrum is – if you are born of Gods, Zeus and Leda, and of a human father, which is the real Helen? The setting is seventeen years on from the Trojan Wars, started when Helen eloped with the Trojan, Paris. Feisty Helen (ravishing redhead Penny Downie) speaks informally to the audience and outlines her dilemma.

She still loves her husband Menelaus (handsomely played by Paul McGann), now found shipwrecked in Egypt, but she is to marry the King of Egypt (Rawiri Paratene).

The 90 minute production by Deborah Bruce, in conversational style and with unusual juxtapositions of old and new, is most entertaining. The band is dressed in dinner jackets, a strange look for the banks of the Nile and a comedy turn is provided by the appearance of Helen's dead brothers, Castor and Pollux.

Helen uses all her skill to trick her would-be husband Theoclymenus, in an unbelievably outrageous plan, and all ends well. Although as the Chorus remarks: 'Nothing is as we imagine'.

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