Phaedra in the review of the National Theater

In Greek mythology, Phaedra was a Cretan princess married to the Athenian king Theseus who fell fatally in love with her stepson. Several variations of the story exist that allow playwright Simon Stone some legitimacy to do whatever he wants with his latest drama.

In a welcome return to the stage, Janet McTeer is a fully modern Phaedra, here called Helen; A fast-talking, property-rich career politician with precocious children and a smart, moody husband Hugo (Paul Chahidi, fantastic), she lacks for nothing except sexual passion.

When Sofiane (Call My Agent’s Assaad Bouab), the son of his long-dead Moroccan lover, arrives out of nowhere, passion ignites in the most deranged way.

With a hint of Pasolini’s movie Teorema, the fire of lust spreads from mother to daughter, Isolda (Mackenzie Davis).

Directing from his own script, Stone goes full throttle from the start as the family throws clever repartee back and forth on Chloe Lamford’s beautifully crafted set.

It plays out as an amphetamine-fueled sex farce until a catastrophic party at a chichi restaurant tips the play toward tragedy. The abrupt descent into emotional obscurity is compelling in no small part due to the astonishingly confident performances.

McTeer is magnificent as the hormonal cougar harboring necrotic guilt and is surrounded by a terrific cast that includes Archie Barnes as prankster son Declan, Akiya Henry as Helen’s political ally Omalara, and John Macmillan as Isolde’s cuckolded husband. , Eric.

The contemporary setting allows Stone to poke pins into social and political elitism, inherent racism, and the exoticization of sexual allure.

English subtitles for occasional foreign language sequences give it the dimension of a living auteur film. My only complaint is that the production is housed in a giant perspex box in which the actors appear like specimens in a petri dish.

This alienating device is now a design cliché that must be removed forever.

  • Fedra at the National Theater until April 8 Tickets: 020 3989 5455

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