Dido, Queen of Carthage Feels As Youthful As Ever

By Sam Smith Last edited 37 months ago
Dido, Queen of Carthage Feels As Youthful As Ever ★★★☆☆ 3

Inside the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse. Photo by Pete Le May.

Londonist Rating: ★★★☆☆

There seems something highly fitting about Christopher Marlowe’s Dido, Queen of Carthage being performed by The Globe Young Players, a company of talented 12 to 16-year olds who are specially selected and trained by the Globe’s resident experts. This is because the play was first performed (sometime between 1597 and 1603) by the Children of the Chapel, a group of boys with unbroken voices who formed part of the Chapel Royal.

Inspired by the works of Virgil, Marlowe’s play, which also includes contributions from Thomas Nashe, focuses on the aftermath of the fall of Troy to the Greeks. Aeneas leads the Trojan survivors to the Punic kingdom where he falls in love with the Dido of the title. He is torn, however, between his desire to stay with her and a divine command to head to Italy to found a new Troy. When he finally decides to obey the gods, he leaves the Queen so distraught that she throws herself on the sacrificial pyre that she created to burn everything that reminded her of him.

Jacqui Somerville’s production is staged effectively in the intimate Sam Wanamaker Playhouse with song and movement being incorporated well into the proceedings. Garlands of flowers adorn the pillars, while the costumes delineate the different ‘civilisations’. The Trojans wear modern military dress, the Carthaginians don elaborate traditonal costumes, and the gods sport a type of ‘feathered bling’ as befits their decadent ways.

The production excels in reminding us just how much humour there is in this ultimately tragic play, and the performers succeed in bringing both a youthful vitality and a pleasing degree of understatement to the mirth. In the process, we catch just a glimpse perhaps of how the work might orginally have been conceived.

The chemistry and emotion in some of the interactions is slightly lacking at times, but the ability to bring sufficient weight to these should come to all of the actors in time, and on this occasion several performances stand out in particular. Indeed, the above point would certainly not apply to Jasmine Jones as Dido whose presence and delivery prove very strong. She also captures the humorous moments, such as when she keeps changing her position after being pierced by Cupid’s arrow, with great discretion. Guy Amos as Aeneas delivers a highly engaging monologue as he describes the destruction of Troy, Yasmin Prince is a suitably proud and expectant Juno, while there is a pleasing ‘dunce-like’ quality to Ben Lynn’s performance as the rejected would-be suitor of Dido, Iarbus.

Until 18 April (six performances) at the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse, 21 New Globe Walk, Bankside, SE1 9DT with start times of 2.30pm and 7.30pm. For tickets (£10-£35) visit the Shakespeare’s Globe website. Londonist saw this play on a complimentary ticket.

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Last Updated 12 April 2015