(Andrew Dickson’s article appeared in the Guardian, 9/28.)

An army straggles along the beach in improvised encampments; they have been here nine long years. Inside the walls, the city waits. The noose of history tightens; this battle can only end one way.

After taking the oldest playtext in the western canon, Aeschylus’s The Persians, up to a firing range in the Brecons (2010) and offering a rewired Coriolanus inside an aircraft hanger (2012), for their latest journey theatremakers Mike Pearson and Mike Brookes begin where so much of it began, with Homer’s epic. Staged in four roughly two-hour chunks, this National Theatre Wales production does not attempt the full span of 24 books, but – employing the five slender volumes of translations-cum-adaptations on which poet Christopher Logue toiled for over 40 years – offers a distilled version of one of the oldest narratives in existence. Achilles broods, the Greek and Trojan armies spar, then hunker down; Patroclus meets his maker. The gods, callous and cold-eyed, supervise everything.


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