Skip to main content

Amanda Gaughan Directs Hecuba in Dundee

When theatre director Amanda Gaughan looked at her TV screen recently, 
the news agenda was dominated by global warfare. This seemed to have 
been a permanent fixture, Gaughan observed, even before two hi-jacked 
aeroplanes flew into the World Trade Centre's twin towers in New York 
more than a decade ago, changing the world forever. All the more 
reason, then, to revive Hecuba, Euripides' classic fourth century BC 
anti-war play. Set after the Trojan War but before the Greeks have left 
Troy, Hecuba charts how the play's eponymous former queen of the now 
fallen city exacts a terrible revenge following the death of her 
daughter, Polyxena, and the murder of her son, Polydoros.

“We're living in a world today where a lot of terrible crimes against 
humanity are taking place,” Gaughan observes, “particularly in the 
Middle East. That was the case as well with the Greeks, so they used 
myths to illustrate this and to comment on what was going on in 

With this in mind, Gaughan has opted to use a version of the play 
penned by Frank McGuinness a decade ago, when the aftermath of 9/11 was 
still fresh in the collective psyche. This allows Gaughan to work with 
something that is both classical and contemporary in its construction 
and execution.

“The text is brilliant,” Gaughan affirms. “Frank's written such a 
strong and illuminating version of the play He's written it in 
semi-contemporary language, and pared things right back, so it's very 
exposing, with no fluff around the action, and in a way that makes 
things much more accessible to the ear.”

One of the more striking features of Gaughan's production should come 
in its appearance. Rather than use the full sweep of Dundee Rep's 
auditorium, Gaughan has opted to put the audience onstage, where they 
will watch the action in a purpose-built construction that contains 
both them and the performers. Such an intimate approach has been 
something of a calling card for Gaughan, ever since she directed a 
claustrophobic version of Dennis Kelly's psycho-sexual thriller, After 
The End, in the up close and personal environs of the Citizens 
Theatre's Circle Studio. Gaughan directed the equally intense Roman 
Bridge, by Martin Travers, for the National Theatre of Scotland.

“I don't want to create a distance,” Gaughan says of her decision on 
how to stage Hecuba. “The Rep's got this gorgeous auditorium, but using 
that would have meant having to change the playing style and do 
everything so much bigger. By bringing the audience onstage and 
watching the action from three sides it creates a much more intimate 
and at times voyeuristic feel,so at times the audience are complicit 
with the action. At times it's so small and tender, and at other times 
you wonder whether we should be watching this, because the characters 
are so full of grief.”

If there is a dark thread running through much of Gaughan's work, it's 
not deliberate, but is more to do with a professional curiosity about 
“situations that aren't black and white, and which ask how we got 
ourselves in a particular position.”

Gaughan has recently branched out into musicals with young company, 
Noisemaker, on a show called Forest Boy, and into opera with Johnny 
McKnight on Last One Out. Given that the former was based on a real 
story about a boy who may or may not have lived in the wild, while the 
latter was set and performed in a lighthouse in Fraserburgh, darkness 
and claustrophobia remain on her agenda.

“I like to think of myself as a nice happy person,” Gaughan laughs, 
“but I suppose I'm interested in a theatre of conflict. With Hecuba 
we've been looking at what's going on in Syria and Egypt quite a lot, 
and one of the things I'm interested in is that this cycle of violence 
will never end. It all comes down to why the Greeks made theatre, which 
was to reflect what was going on in society at the time, and to reflect 
on how a war can change people. For me, it's about going, okay, this is 
a Greek myth, we're creating a piece of theatre and aren't actually in 
a dangerous situation, but let's think about the wars that are going on 
now. I'm sitting in Dundee, and all these terrible things are going on 
in the world right now. Theatre cam make you look at that. It brings 
current situations to the fore, and makes us question our humanity, and 
what our responsibilities are.”

Hecuba, Dundee Rep, October 17th-26th

The Herald, October 15th 2013



Popular posts from this blog

Suzy Glass – Message from the Skies

Freedom of movement matters to Suzy Glass, the arts and events producer currently overseeing the second edition of Message from the Skies.This animated literary derive around the city forms part of this year’s Edinburgh’s Hogmanay programme, and runs right through till Burns’ Night. Glass’ concerns are inherent in the event itself, which has commissioned six writers from different disciplines and experiences to each pen a love letter to Europe. Each writer has then paired up with a composer and visual artist or film-maker, with the results of each collaboration projected in monumental fashion on the walls of one of half a dozen of the capital’s most iconic buildings.
With venues stretching from the south side of Edinburgh to Leith, and with one city centre stop requiring a walk up Calton Hill, there is considerable legwork required to complete the circuit. It shouldn’t be considered a race, however, and audiences are free to move between venues at their leisure, visiting each site on d…

Kieran Hurley – Mouthpiece

Things have changed since Kieran Hurley first began writing the play that would become Mouthpiece, which opens at the Traverse Theatre in Edinburgh this weekend. At the time, Hurley was, in his own words, “quite new on the scene.” As a writer and performer, he had already scored hits with Beats and Chalk Farm, two pieces that put him on the map with a new generation of theatre-makers steeped in an equally new wave of grassroots opposition that drew from the iconography of revolutions past. Where Beats looked at the politicisation of 1990s club culture, Chalk Farm, co-written with AJ Taudevin, focused on a teenage boy caught up in the 2011 London riots.
More plays followed. Some, like Heads Up used the same solo story-telling aesthetic to look at an everyday apocalypse. More recently, Square Go, written with Gary McNair, dissected toxic masculinity through a school playground fight.
All the while as Hurley developed as a writer, from new kid on the block to established provocateur, this…

Rob Drummond – The Mack

Rob Drummond was at home in England when he looked at the news feed on his phone, and saw a post about the fire at Glasgow School of Art. It was June 2018, and the writer and performer behind such hits as Grain in the Blood, Bullet Catch and Our Fathers initially presumed the post was to mark the fourth anniversary of the 2014 blaze in GSA’s Mackintosh Building, which was undergoing a major restoration after much of it was destroyed.
As it turned out, the news was far worse, as reports of a second fire were beamed across the world. As someone who had taken Charles Rennie Mackintosh’s iconic construction for granted while living in Glasgow, Drummond was as stunned as anyone else with even a passing relationship with the Mack.
While emotions continue to run high in response to the disaster, Drummond channelled his thoughts on all this into what he does best. The result is The Mack, a new play that forms part of Oran Mor’s A Play, A Pie and a Pint lunchtime theatre season in Glasgow prior …