Troilus And Cressida, King's Theatre <!-- none onestar twostar threestar fourstar fivestar -->

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The Independent Culture

When the opening night of Peter Stein's new staging of Troilus and Cressida had to be halted midway through, after a major technical hitch, I wasn't entirely sorry.

The problem was apparently caused by a vast, burnished wall - a harsh backdrop to the political male wrangling around the siege of Troy. The next night, we saw that the wall tilts to become a sloped battleground. Here, as events roll to their tragic climax, swords clash and breastplates are struck.

As is his way, Stein has stuck stolidly to the text, delivered lucidly but hardly engagingly by the cast. The spark that brings characters to pulsating life seems to have eluded the German director on his worthy first Shakespeare production, created for the International Festival and the RSC.

The musical underscoring - antiphonal trumpets (war), sleazy jazz (lust), jagged strings (political machination) - adds little. But Paul Jesson makes podgy Pandarus both comic and pathetic as well as gruesome, while Ian Hughes, a scraggy Thersites, captures the essence of humanity. With a plot that swivels between bitter passion and dubious politics, you'd expect raw emotions to surface. But not in Paris and Helen's fluffy bedroom romp, and even less in theromance between Henry Pettigrew's awkwardly adolescent Troilus and Annabel Scholey's petulant Cressida, is there a sign of lust feverish enough to cause heroes to slay each other and armies to perish.

To 26 August (0131-473 2000); then RSC, Stratford

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