“Pentesilea”, Euroregional Theatre Festival in Timisoara – TESZT

Jeremy Malies in Romania
23 May 2024

At festivals worldwide, be it Timișoara or Brighton, we return to the Greeks and perform their stories outdoors with a broad sweep. In the case of this and Silence by Teatr Biuro Podrozy, there is the similarity of actors being on stilts and using mime, though a few words are spoken here by Francesca Figini playing Pentesilea as tensions rise.


Photo credit: Beliczay László.


But primarily the tale of these lovers is acted out with mime in an inspired dumbshow brought to the event by Teatro dei Venti of Modena, Italy. The piece is directed by Stefano Tè who has also presented his treatment of Melville’s “Moby Dick” at this festival.

Tè often works with the stories of marginalized and vulnerable characters. As presented by actor Antonio Santangelo, Achilles is a warrior who appears to have vulnerabilities that extend well beyond the single heel that will prove his downfall in combat with Paris. Remarkably for this genre, Santangelo manages to show the rounded being that Pentesilea comes to love after she visits Troy in the wake of Achilles’s slaying of Hector.

There is some framing by an initial piece of live narration in Italian. Percussion predominates both from medieval drums played by the two actors and a modern drum set with a musician stage left. The drum score by composer Igino L Caselgrandi (styles included jazz and rock) conjures up everything from the beating hearts of the lovers to hooves of unseen horses elsewhere on the plain. At times its incantation can send Figini into a trance.

In a recurring pattern, the lovers become animalistic amid the drumming sequences and then revert to a skittish routine of courtship. How they can dance (sometimes one-legged) on stilts is beyond me. Not once did I see either of the performers make any conscious attempt to retain balance even when (remarkably) they are shoving each other. The animal world is always in the background and Figini references many creatures that are both mythical and recognizable to us.

Tè has used a play about the lovers by German expressionist poet Heinrich von Kleist as a broad base but the overall tone is surely his own. Caselgrandi includes Baroque string music that I took to be Handel and even Irish Gaelic followed by syth-pop. Perhaps the message is that the legacy of these stories resonates with all cultures?

The play alternates between being of an age and of no age so underlining the primacy of Greek and Trojan culture. I believe that this is Tè’s main intention and he succeeds wonderfully. If there is a legacy it may be that the many youngsters watching in Liberty Square will be inspired to research the ancient Greeks which would be a fine spin-off from this wonderful festival.