By David Fox
Timon of Athens at The RSC
Directed by Simon Godwin
In a world driven by greed, what do we truly value?
Lady Timon of Athens has it all – money, influence, friends. Host of extravagant parties she is loved by all those who seek to flatter her for their own benefit. Surely it can’t last?
When the money runs out, Timon soon finds her influence and friends have also gone. Left alone, she flees Athens to take refuge in the woods, cursing the city she once loved. This is a rare chance to see Shakespeare’s comic tragedy, which asks us to question our values and the credit culture we inhabit in 2018.
Timon of Athens is one of Shakespeare’s less well-known plays, and therefore one I was unfamiliar with. It was interesting to watch the tale unfold as Timon’s life falls apart – an emotional play ranging from wild and happy, to melancholy and thought-provoking at the end.
The play begins with the most sumptuous of sets – a riot of gold stage, props and costumes at the dinner party to reflect the wealth and opulence of Timon’s life echoed by the flatterers and sycophants each trying to win Lady Timon’s favours. In the second half this was starkly contrasted by her living in a literal rubbish dump and suffering the effects of poverty.
The music evoked the feel of a Greek bouzouki band, with one particular highlight being a full Greek dance to evoke the raucous, riotous, hedonistic parties the island is famous for. Other scenes reflected the Greek 2008 anti-austerity riots – linking to the plays themes of wealth and poverty.
Ina gender-swapped role Timon was played by Kathryn Hunter, who gave a fantastic performance – showing elegance and style to begin, and emotional fragility after Timon’s downfall. As always with the RSC there was a fantastic ensemble cast – however I also really enjoyed performances from Patrick Drury, James Clyde, and Ralph Davies (familiar from other productions this year).
Simon Godwin (The Two Gentlemen of Verona, Hamlet) returns to The RSC to direct this dark satire, which forces us to question where happiness really lies.
Timon of Athens is a thought provoking play and made me question modern materialistic values, the effects of recession and austerity, and celebrity worship and culture. For a play written so long ago it felt very timely and relevant to the modern world.
Timon of Athens is playing at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre, Stratford-upon-Avon until 22nd February 2019. It is suitable for ages seven and over and children go half price. More information and ticket bookings can be found at rsc.org.uk
This isn’t a sponsored post. #BrumHour was invited to see Timon of Athens by The RSC.