Opened 11 June 2009
Written: by Racine, in a version by Ted Hughes
Directed: Nicholas Hytner
Cast: Helen Mirren (Phedre), Dominic Cooper (Hippolytus), Margaret Tyzack (Oenone)
Synopsis: Consumed by an uncontrollable passion for her young stepson and believing Theseus, her absent husband, to be dead, Phedre confesses her darkest desires and enters the world of nightmare. When Theseus returns alive and well, Phedre fearing exposure, accuses her stepson of rape. The result is carnage.
What the popular press had to say....
HENRY HITCHING'S for THE EVENING STANDARD says, "We don’t see Phèdre and Hippolytus together until 40 minutes into the play’s two hours (there is no interval), but when the moment comes it is electric...Here in Hughes’s version his [Racine] writing comes throbbingly alive." CHARLES SPENCER for THE DAILY TELEGRAPH says, "In Racine's searching 17th century tragedy of illicit passion and desperate guilt, she [Helen Mirren] never quite penetrates the dark heart of this great neoclassical drama...If Mirren can only raise her game, this could become a great production rather than a merely good one." BENEDICT NIGHTINGALE for THE TIMES says, "Nicholas Hytner’s modern-dress revival is almost unerringly fine, Ted Hughes’s translation simple yet bold and Bob Crowley’s set apt...she [Helen Mirren] offers what the text demands: shame, remorse, self-contempt." MICHAEL COVENEY for THE INDEPENDENT says, "This is a very sedate version of a passionate tragedy. It plays for two uninterrupted hours and feels like something devised for tourists sampling culture on the South Bank. It has nothing much to do with Racine. Ted Hughes's supple text is a fair stab, but a wrong one." SUSAN ELKIN for THE STAGE says, "Mirren herself is, of course, eminently watchable." QUENTIN LETTS for THE DAILY MAIL says, "Dame Helen bridges these extremes with ease. A class act from a classy actress. She is not the only star of this cerebral, beautifully staged show. The other is the late Ted Hughes for writing such a haunting version of Racine's play." MICHAEL BILLINGTON for THE GUARDIAN says, "Powerful and striking production...The strength of Hytner's production is that Phèdre herself, in Helen Mirren's forceful performance, is not so much a victim of the gods as of an unconquerable erotic obsession."
Production photos by Catherine Ashmore