Britannicus review: Superb translation successfully maintains tragedy, drama and humour

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So she plays her lethally capricious son Nero (William Robinson, excellent) off against stepson Britannicus (Nathaniel Curtis from It’s A Sin) and it’s a power play that can only end in blood.

On a simple set of chairs and a huge hanging depicting Romulus and Remus, the small cast battles it out for dominion in a production that has one foot in Senecan tragedy and the other in Dynasty.

Saba’s power-dressed-to-kill Agrippina is terrific as she wields matriarchal authority like a lightsaber.

Although Racine’s drama is essentially static, director Atri Bannerjee delivers a powerhouse production by introducing elements of physical theatre.

There are echoes of Pina Bausch in the way characters shake in fear and chairs are flung hither and thither.

A water cooler provides several visual gags and even a fall from a chair has a shocking significance. 

The cast, including Shyvonne Ahmmad, Nigel Barrett and Helena Lymbery, maintain the balance between humour and tragedy with sublime assurance.

Hanna Khogali’s violin playing is a bonus.

Britannicus, Lyric Hammersmith, London, until June 25. Tickets: 020 8741 6822 

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