The Last Days of Troy – reviews of 'vivid' Homer play

May 19, 2014

Critics 'fascinated' by Lily Cole's full stage debut as Helen in raw new Homer adaptation

Jonathan Keenan

What you need to know
A new stage adaptation of Homer's The Iliad starring Lily Cole, has opened at the Royal Exchange, Manchester. The Last Days of Troy is adapted and updated by poet and novelist Simon Armitage and directed by Nick Bagnall. 

The play is set in the final days of the Greeks' ten-year siege of Troy as they try to win back their abducted queen, Helen - "the face that launched a thousand ships". Both sides resort to extreme actions to break the deadlock, prompting dreadful reactions from both men and the gods.

British supermodel Lily Cole appears in her first full professional stage role as Helen. Runs until 7 June, then Shakespeare's Globe, London, 10-28 June. 

What the critics like
"Lily Cole proves perfect casting as Helen of Troy in this knife-sharp twist on Homer," says Dominic Cavendish in the Daily Telegraph. Her studied impassivity and radiant intelligence keeps you fascinated, and guessing.

"Cole's blankness is perfect for a character who trades on her power over men but also her unknowability," says Dominic Maxwell in The Times. It's an effective performance in an accessible, absorbing evening of mythic storytelling.

Armitage's "raw, vivid muscular verse" is supported by sparing use of theatrical devices, a stark set and taut direction, says Paul Vallely in The Independent. Lily Cole conjures an evocative ambiguity, and speaking few words only adds to the potency of her enigma.

What they don't like
This is "Homer without tears", says Michael Billington in The Guardian. It's an entertaining evening and you have to admire Armitage's skill and audacity in compressing Homer's Iliad, but it lacks a fiercely personal vision.          

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