Theatre review: Our Ajax, Southwark Playhouse, London
Inspired by Sophocles tragedy Ajax, Timberlake Wertenbaker's new play updates the action to a modern-day warzone; the sand-covered stage naturally evokes Afghanistan.
Ajax is passed over for promotion, and wreaks revenge on what he believes to be army officers - actually a host of farm animals. Joe Dixon as Ajax arrives drenched in blood, moaning and bashing at his seemingly diseased head, but he has a powerful physical presence that conveys the former greatness of this mighty soldier, for whom individual honour is everything.
Wertenbaker's choppy text manages to be poetic, tonally true to its origins, while also injecting modern politics and crude barracks humour, drawing on interviews with real soldiers. Not all performances in David Mercatali's production quite meet the material; Gemma Chan’s underpowered goddess Athena, though watchably slinky, is given to over-articulating lines and peppy gestures.
But the modernisation works, opening up new resonances. Characters experience violent flashbacks, nightmares, visions and voices after witnessing the horrors of war, and Wertenbaker finds slippery overlap between an ancient world of manipulative gods and modern-day PTSD. Ajax may be led on his killing spree by Athena as punishment for immense personal pride – but to his squaddies, he's just exhibiting the familiar signs of a soldier that's “cracked up” under the pressure.
To 30 Nov; southwarkplayhouse.co.uk
MusicThe band accidentally called Londoners the C-word
Film 'I've never been comfortable on-screen', she says
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 'Kidnapped boy may have been abused and murdered by VIP paedophile ring,' say police
- 2 Ridley Scott on Exodus, Gods and Kings casting: 'I'm not going to get it financed if my lead actor is Mohammad so-and-so from such-and-such'
- 3 Girl, 7, gets Tesco to remove 'stupid' sign suggesting superheroes are 'for boys'
- 4 This letter from a reader explains why women can’t play football
- 5 'You should come to my house and eat cheeses with me': 4-year-old sends adorable love letter to girl at school
I'm A Celebrity 2014: Jungle security stepped up after murder and 'suspicious death' close to camp
This house and dental clinic 'piled up like bricks on the brink of collapsing' is why Japan wins at architecture
Ridley Scott on Exodus, Gods and Kings casting: 'I'm not going to get it financed if my lead actor is Mohammad so-and-so from such-and-such'
Marilyn Manson denies involvement in shocking Lana Del Rey rape video
There's a Good Girl exhibition: How female creatives are changing the way women are portrayed in advertising
Ukip says babies born to immigrants in the UK should be classed as migrants – which would include Nigel Farage’s own children
Rochester by-election: Ukip gains second MP as Tory defector Mark Reckless holds seat
'Beast of Bolsover' Dennis Skinner takes Ukip MP Mark Reckless to task moments after he is sworn in
The young are the new poor: Sharp increase in number of under-25s living in poverty, while over-65s are better off than ever
Tamir Rice: 12-year-old boy playing with fake gun dies after being shot by Ohio police
Bollywood actress Veena Malik sentenced to 26 years in jail for blasphemy after appearing in mock TV wedding scene