Tim Piggot-Smith stars as Agamemnon opposite Clare Higgins’ Hecuba in the first of two productions of the classic story — the other, planned by the Royal Shakespeare Company, will showcase Vanessa Redgrave. The Donmar’s staging uses a new version by Frank McGuinness. It’s directed by former Almeida Theatre co-artistic director Jonathan Kent and is the latest in a series of ancient Greek tragedies to be recently revived on the London stage. Luc Bondy's staging of Cruel and Tender at the Young Vic — based on Sophocles' Women of Trachis — was said by many observers to resonate strongly with the "war against terrorism." Katie Mitchell's much-admired updating of Iphigenia at Aulis, currently playing at the National, has also been said to resonate with contemporary international politics.
Speaking to the Guardian, Kent described Hecuba as "one of the most savage indictments of war ever written. Frank McGuinness has come up with a new version that has a strong contemporary feel. But in performance you have to strike a balance between articulating the message and allowing the audience to make its own connections. It would be a great mistake to set the action explicitly outside Basra or Baghdad. Yet it would also be a sign of failure if the play didn't bring Iraq to mind."
This will be the first time Kent has directed for the Donmar. Higgins received three major awards for her performance in Nicholas Wright's play about the artist Van Gogh, Vincent in Brixton, and Piggot-Smith appeared most recently in the acclaimed National Theatre revival of Mourning Becomes Electra. Designs are by Paul Brown, with lighting designs by Mark Henderson.