Howard Davies updated the play's action from the Trojan to the Crimean War of the 1850s.

Head amnd shoulder photo of a young couple embracing cheek to cheek, the woman wearing grey dress with patterned full sleeve and bearded man with red velvet jacket
Cressida (Juliet Stevenson) and Troilus (Anton Lesser), 1976, Royal Shakespeare Theatre.
Photo by Joe Cocks Studio Collection © Shakespeare Birthplace Trust Browse and license our images


Davies’ modernised production evoked a battered world in which the ravages of war reduced love to dust. Ralph Koltai designed a single set: the interior of a war-damaged mansion, complete with peeling pictures, broken shutters and a grandiose staircase.


The Greek and Trojan camps occupied the same set so different furniture and props were used to indicate the distinct locations. The 19th century uniforms worn by the Greeks and Trojans were a similar style, so the main costume distinction was between the military and civilians.


An upright piano stood in the hall, on which Pandarus and others played Ilona Sekacz's "twisted echoes of the waltzes and polonaises of the time" Iriving Wardle, the Times, 27 June 1985. The dissonant pastiche music combined with Jeffrey Beecroft's lighting to enhance the unsettling effect of the crumbling set.


By setting the play in the 19th century, the role of Cressida could be re-evaluated. So instead of the traditional faithless and flirtatious lover, Juliet Stevenson's Cressida had a consistent underlying motivation to use her wits to survive in a male-dominated world. This meant shifting her allegiance from one male protector (Troilus) to another (Diomedes) in order to survive. For some critics this was a revolutionary and powerfully contemporary approach.

Stevenson explained her interpretation in an interview: "I see Cressida as streetwise: she knows what the game is and she plays it well. She knows that the only value women have in that society is their sexual worth. And her wisecracking with the men - which people have taken to be a sign of wantonness - is all part of her protection...if Cressida does not look after herself, no one else will."  'The Love That Knows No End', Lynne Truss, The Times, 6 May 1986.

Manekin wearing a blue/grey full length Empire line chiffon dress with Paisley pattern around the hem

A bearded man wearing 19th century uniform boots, breeches and waistcoat holds the hand of a young woman dressed in grey chiffon dress
Troilus (Anton Lesser) and Cressida (Juliet Stevenson), 1985, Royal Shakespeare Theatre
Photo by Joe Cocks Studio Collection © Shakespeare Birthplace Trust Browse and license our images
Theatrical poster for Troilus and Cressida showing a ruined mansion, a man in a white suit playing a piano, a man looking up the staircase towards a woman



Royal Shakespeare Theatre

Bruce Alexander - Diomedes

Alun Armstrong - Thersites

Sean Baker - Paris

Russell Boulter - Troilus’ servant, Myrmidon

David Burke - Hector

Richard Conway - Calchas

Janet Dale - Andromache

Mark Dignam - Nestor

Colin Douglas - Priam

Lindsay Duncan - Helen

Brian Horstead - Menelaus

Roger Hyams - Alexander, Myrmidon

Peter Jeffrey - Ulysses

Anton Lesser - Troilus

Gerald Logan - Prologue, Myrmidon

Hilton McRae - Patroclus

Clive Merrison - Pandarus

Mike Murray - Officer, Myrmidon

Joseph O'Conor - Agamemnon

Mary Jo Randle - Cassandra

Alan Rickman - Achilles

Clive Russell - Ajax

Hugh Simon - Officer, Myrmidon

Paul Spence - Helenus, Margarelon

Juliet Stevenson - Cressida

Alexander Wilson - Aeneas

Christopher Wright - Paris' Servant, Myrmidon

Geraldine Wright - Trojan Lady

Andrew Yeats - Trojan Gentleman




Directors – Howard Davies

Set Designer – Ralph Koltai

Costume Designer - Liz Da Costa

Lighting Designer – Jeffrey Beecroft, Clive Morris

Music – Ilona Sekacz


The RSC's archive is held at the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust. You can visit the Library and Archives there to look at production related information, including photos, videos of shows and stage management documents:

Shakespeare Centre Library and Archive homepage

You can search the RSC catalogue here: 

RSC performance database

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