John Barton's third production of Troilus and Cressida for the company was co-directed by Barry Kyle and emphasised the play's ambiguities.

A diseased man with sores on his face, wearing rags and feathers, holds his hands aloft and holds a letter with seal
John Nettles as Thersites, Troilus and Cressida, 1976, Royal Shakespeare Theatre
Photo by Reg Wilson © RSC Browse and license our images


Troilus and Cressida came to be regarded by many as John Barton's 'signature' play. He directed the two previous productions for the company in 1960 and 1968. Fascinated by narrative sagas like the Trojan War, Barton went on to direct a multi-play cycle The Greeks for the RSC in 1980.


For his 1976 production with Barry Kyle, Barton chose to highlight the shifting ambiguities of the play: "again and again, a character who seems to be foolish or cruel or stupid turns up with something completely the opposite to one's first view of him, and that seems to me not a chaotic view of human nature but a truthful and realistic one" Programme Notes.


Barton's interpretation for the 1976 production was based on the key line "Lechery, lechery, still wars and lechery" Thersites, Act 5 Scene 2.


Inevitably critics compared the 1976 production with Barton's previous ones and pointed out repeated features like the virtually naked Trojans fighting in slow-motion and the overt effeminacy of Achilles and Pandarus.


John Barton was an accomplished fight director and was responsible for creating some memorable stage combat. In the following gallery you can discover the step-by-step fight plot for Hector and Ajax's duel and production photos from the scene.


The production was staged on the fixed wooden set designed by Chris Dyer and John Napier for the entire 1976 season at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre. It consisted of a jutting hexagonal stage and vertical beams, the bases of which in this production were sometimes decorated with large grotesque masks.


The costumes designed by Dyer were generally classical. When Cressida arrived in the Greek camp, she was dressed like a courtesan (prostitute) of the period. Some of the warriors, like Hector, wore elaborate plumed helmets, although in the case of the Trojans very little else.

Grotesque greek mask with bulging eye sockets, hair made from sacking and a long snaking protruding tongue
Mask from the 1976 Troilus and Cressida set, Royal Shakespeare Theatre.
Designed by Chris Dyer © RSC Browse and license our images
Theatrical programme cover for Troilus and Cressida 1976, featuring a fine-line sketch of a classical female



Royal Shakespeare Theatre

Francesca Annis - Cressida

Ivan Beavis – Agamemnon

Marjorie Bland – Unnamed parts

Paul Brooke - Alexander

Tony Church - Ulysses

Dennis Clinton - Priam

Brian Coburn - Ajax

Meg Davies - Andromache

Richard Durden - Paris

Robin Ellis - Achilles

Nickolas Grace - Aeneas

Richard Griffiths - Paris' Servant

Pippa Guard – Unnamed parts

Mike Gwilym - Troilus

Greg Hicks – Unnamed parts

Barbara Leigh-Hunt - Helen

David Lyon – Margarelon, Prologue (alt)

Paul Moriarty - Patroclus

John Nettles – Thersites, Prologue (alt)

Michael Pennington - Hector

Clyde Pollitt - Calchas

Leonard Preston - Antenor

Barbara Shelley - Cassandra

Paul Shelley - Diomedes

Keith Taylor – Prologue (alt)

Norman Tyrrell - Nestor

Frances Viner – Unnamed parts

David Waller - Pandarus

Paul Whitworth - Helenus

Jacob Witkin – Menelaus, Prologue (alt)

Peter Woodward - Deiphobus




Directors – John Barton, Barry Kyle

Designer – Chris Dyer

Lighting Designer – Clive Morris

Choreographer – Anna Raphael

Music – Guy Woolfenden


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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