Home » London Theatre Reviews » Tempus Fugit: Troy & Us at the Union Theatre | Review

Tempus Fugit: Troy & Us at the Union Theatre | Review

Tempus Fugit: Troy and Us is the brainchild of NMT Automatics, a theatre company that harnesses the value of classical texts, present-day interviews with military personnel and Homer’s epic poem The Iliad, to weave a disjointed connection between an ancient Greek fable and the 21st-century military campaign in Afghanistan.

Tempus Fugit: Troy & Us
Tempus Fugit: Troy & Us

It is an ambitious project, one which poses many questions and carries a weight of responsibility for its creators and the viewing public. Its narrative is played out between Bea (Genevieve Dunne) and Alec (Noah Young) a couple who meet and marry while their country is deploying military support to Afghanistan.

Alec’s character is the counterpart to Hector, a hero who is portrayed as the most magnificent Trojan warrior in The Iliad, while Bea’s character corresponds to Hector’s pregnant wife Andromache. The play is most effective when it takes on the vestiges of an ancient world, becoming less potent when it slips back into current-day empty banter which seems to reduce the topic of war to a battle between two opposing football teams – but maybe that’s one of the play’s points – how sensationalism and media bombardment actually desensitise the viewer to the horrors of war.

Its most powerful moments occur when the actors don face masks, arch their bodies in defiant moves, and translate their marital/martial positions through interpretive dance. This aura of bodily performance is most deeply felt through Alec’s pride in his physical fitness and strength as he lobs grenades at enemies and glories in the firepower of his military assault weapon. Like Hector before him, Alec parades his worth in front of the gods and entertains us with his bloodletting. Truly an enactment of the phrase ‘Theatre of War’.

Director Andres Velasquez does well in juxtaposing the play’s narrative between ancient and modern-day conflicts, while respecting the subtle differences between the two. As does Nathan Johnson in creating a movable, packing-crate set design to complement Dunne and Young’s mesmerising use of physical energy – a set design which also serves as a harbinger of death and the hard edge of marital relations in times of war.

Ultimately, Tempus Fugit: Troy and Us sheds a brutal light on male determination and folly – specifically, the continuing need to celebrate concepts of courage and manhood through acts of annihilation, invasions and military conflict.

And this is where the value of The Iliad and its narrative holds great import. Although Homer’s fable appears to be an ancient tale of heroism in battle, ultimately it ends on a note of compassion and conciliation between two powerful sworn enemies, each equal to the other’s measure. If this piques your interest, perhaps return to the book, or read it for the first time. Its message is simple: recognising the humanity of your enemy may be the antidote to stop you from killing him.

4 stars

Review by Loretta Monaco

A doorbell rings and the radio crackles on, igniting the visions and memories of a woman drawn to an ancient past, that speaks to her present and holds the keys to her future.

Tempus Fugit: Troy & Us, a new play, focusing on the experience of a modern military wife, Bea, as she faces the realities and unrealities of living with her soldier husband, Alec. Inspired by Andromache and her doomed prince Hector, from Homer’s Iliad, as well as interviews with military personnel and partners, it fuses text, movement and mask to create a multi-layered work that explores love, grief, trauma and war.

Cast list
Bea – Genevieve Dunne
Alec – Noah Young
With voiceovers from: Konstantinos Kavakiotis & Nasia Papadopoulou

Creative list
Director Andres Velasquez
Dramaturg Máirín O’Hagan
Co-creator Jennie Dunne
Co-creator Jonathan Young
Set & Sound Design Nathan Johnson
Lighting Designer Josephine Tremelling
Stage Manager Chloe Astleford
Sound Technician Chris Prosho

Union Theatre, Southwark SE1


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