In this reproduction of Racine’s classic, a sprightly muse guides us through the skeletal remains of Craigmillar Castle, beckoning the audience to observe the ghosts of an ancient tragedy. Phaedre is a multi-sensory experience that leaves no part of our body unconscious of the unravelling story of forbidden and fatal love. The coldness of the stone walls, the musty air in the cavernous corridors, and the occasional thrashes of Edinburgh’s temperamental weather against the ramparts all come together to authorise the pathetic downfall of our tragic heroes.
Faithfully adhering to Hellenistic tradition, the production preserves the supernatural elements of the tale. Some small steps have been made to align the prominent issues with more modern preoccupations such as Anglo-Scottish rivalry, but this is best thought of as an orthodox rendering of Racine’s original, notable mainly for the cosmetic setting it employs. Whilst the delivery of Phaedra’s frenetic outbursts by Cleo Sylvestre are brilliant, the performances put on by the rest of the cast are generally bland, and frequently give the production the feel of an overly familiar print in a resplendent frame.
Go and explore Phaedre. Immerse yourself in the enchanting grounds of the castle which come alive and converse with you. Though occasional instances of unpolished dramaturgy threaten to break the spell, the thrill of constantly being led into new scenes of histrionics will keep you stimulated through to the end.