A tragic tale of forbidden lust, betrayal and revenge, Bell Shakespeare brings to life the rarely told French classic, Phèdre by Jean Racine. The most famous of French tragedies continues Bell Shakespeare’s foray into French classical theatre with Ted Hughes’ passionately wrought translation of love, betrayal, humiliation, despair and death.
Phèdre is married to a notorious and absent King Theseus, who has been missing for months. When rumours of his death reach her, the forbidden desire that has been rising in her erupts in a confession of devastating love for her stepson, Hippolytus.
Rejected by him and faced with the shock return of her husband, the devastated Phèdre stands-by while her stepson is accused of her rape. This mythic tale of erotic obsession explodes with wild accusations, chilling curses and violent deaths. It cannot end well, and, like any good tragedy, it doesn’t.
“The story of Phèdre is a classic love triangle. It’s secrets and lies, forbidden love and the destruction of innocence,” says Director Peter Evans. “But it’s also about fathers and sons, and what it’s like to be the son of such a famous and infamous father.”
Evans is delighted to finally have the opportunity to cast Catherine McClements in a role for which, he says, she is perfectly suited. “I wanted an actor that was brave. She is one of this country’s most incisive and powerful actors. Casting Catherine was the first idea I had when I thought about doing this play,” says Evans. “It’s right for her – it’s raw, and exposed.”
Evans first saw Catherine perform when he was a student at NIDA, while working as assistant director to Neil Armfield on Company B’s 1995 production of The Blind Giant is Dancing, though many people know her best from her TV performances in Water Rats, Rush and The Secret Life of Us.
Catherine will be performing alongside Marco Chiappi, Julie Forsyth, Bert Labonte, Olivia Monicciolo, Caroline Lee, Edmund Lembke-Hogan (of Bell Shakespeare’s 2012 Players) and newcomer Abby Earl, who stars in Channel 7’s new TV series, A Place Called Home.
The creative team includes Designer Anna Cordingley, who has worked closely with Evans to realise the stage and costume designs, which are both inspired by an aesthetic of decrepit elegance. Paul Jackson heads up Lighting and Kelly Ryall is Composer.
Evans’ decision to produce Phèdre is part of Bell Shakespeare’s continued interest in expanding the Company’s repertoire. “To the Europeans, the story of Phèdre is like our Hamlet,” says Evans, “but I feel confident most of our audience won’t know this story, and that’s exciting.”
Based on Euripides tale Hippolytus, which is more than 2000 years old, this elegant, gripping tragedy explores the power of human emotion that remains just as pertinent today; the power of what it can create, and what it can destroy. It sets a cracking pace, taking place over one day.
Malthouse Theatre – 113 Sturt St, Southbank
Season continues to 2 June 2013
Bookings: (03) 9685 5111 or online at: www.malthousetheatre.com.au
Playhouse – Sydney Opera House
Season: 6 – 29 June 2013
Bookings: (02) 9250 7777 or online at: www.sydneyoperahouse.com
For more information, visit www.bellshakespeare.com.au/Phèdre for details.
Image: Catherine McClements, Edmund Lembke-Hogan and Abby Earl by Pierre Toussaint