Big Q Reviews



by Heinrich Von Kleist

translated by Joel Agee, adapted by Eva Mann

Playades Theatre Company

The Space E14

July 2013


Penthesilea Flyer


Battles rage as The Space in London's E14 is transformed into the fighting beach of Troy. Hoplites confront their Amazonian aggressors in stylized fury, the moment of attack captured in freeze frame intensity as the might of Greece seems poised at the point of defeat by a deadly foe. The Amazon queen, Penthesilea, leads her self-mutilated horde against the valiant Achilles. What is worse, defeat of the body or defeat of the manly soul?

Playades Theatre Company confront this early nineteenth century tragedy by the German playwright Heinrich Von Kleist with astonishing energy and commitment. In a translation by Joel Agee, and adapted by the play's director Eva Mann, Penthesilea explodes on its tiny stage as an epic Homerian adventure full of sexual and social nuance. To the victor the spoils. For these mythical figures victory brings its own unique defeat. Victory in love or war? Both bear the weight of enslavement and subjugation, rape and oppression.

Rayyah McCaul is magnificent as the Amazonian leader Penthesilea. From her first entrance we sense the excitement, the orgasmic ecstasy of blood and battle that this complex character exudes. With stylized movements suiting a warrior queen, McCaul's Penthesilea dominates the stage, her fiery main of red hair emblematizing the bloody outcome of her lust and anger.

McCaul is pitted against the testosterone fuelled Achilles of Tim Carey-Jones. Having fought the queen, Achilles now wants to possess her, to elevate her to his own regal consort, in return for the passionate embrace of one warrior to another. Penthesilea might be enamoured with this heroic fighter, but she will never agree to humble herself before him. Unable to capture her as a submissive, Achilles elects to conquer the Amazonian queen on the field of combat. This desperate bid to win her love is his downfall.

As Penthesilea enters the fray with her dogs of war baying for blood, she becomes no less a raging, tearing, biting cur. The bloody outcome, unexpected by both audience and maddened queen, is executed with style and graphic glee. A bloodfest to feast the eyes and ears, this Penthesilea is as gory as it is sensually sophisticated. A memorable production, performed by dedicated actors, and worthy of much praise.

Big Q Reviews

© Kevin Quarmby, 2013


Penthesilea: Rayyah McCaul
Prothoe: Victoria Tyrrell
Asteria: Cindy-Jane Armbruster
High Priestess: Maria Alexe
Achilles: Tim Carey-Jones
Diomedes: George Bull
Antilochus: Alexander Clifford
Odysseus: Samuel Humphreys


Director: Eva Mann
Set & Costumes: Eva Ott
Assistant Director: Lara Barbier