Phaedra Britannica: National Theatre, Old Vic
It was a pretty rum theatrical cocktail that spilled across the stage of the Old Vic last night. Here's the recipe:
Take one Greek myth. Crush into a tragedy by Euripides. br> Mix well with five parts of a 17th-century French classic tragedy by Racine. br> Ready to serve? No, not yet.
Now open a new bottle of English-rhymed couplets by a modern poet, Tony Harrison, and pour the whole draught out of Ancient Greece into Victorian India. And that, sir, is your drink - Phaedra Britannica - as served up by John Dexter in a superb set by Tanya Moiseiwitsch. The sweet cherry on the stick is Diana Rigg.
The amazing thing is that once you have swallowed the absurdity of the whole experiment you will probably enjoy it hugely.
Phaedra (Miss Rigg) is no longer queen to the King of Athens. She is a Governor's Lady and sweeps round the British Residency pouring out disclosures about her secret sexual longings.
For years she's secretly in love with her stepson, Thomas (David Yelland), a stiff, rather priggish youth who seems unworthy of her passion.
When she reveals her love, Thomas is disgusted and when her husband, the Governor (Michael Gough) gets a twisted version of the story he becomes almost apoplectic with fury.
All the gifted players (plus Robert Eddison as the boy's tutor) just make us swallow this highly artificial concoction.
Miss Rigg especially does wonders with a part which requires her to make utterances completely alien to a lady of her period and social position.
However intoxicated you are, don't fall into the trap regarding this as anything except a pleasant diversion - a heady beverage not a vintage liqueur.