Racine has never been a particular favourite on British stages and while Phèdre is most often revived, this political thriller, which arrives in a new version by Timberlake Wertenbaker and directed by rising star Atri Banerjee, is seldom seen. Examining leadership and how unchecked authoritarianism wrecks havoc, the play takes us back to Ancient Rome where Agrippina, widow of the Emperor Claudius, has installed her own son, Nero, as emperor rather than the rightful heir. We all know how Nero fiddled while Rome burned, so I think we can safely say things don’t turn out well as Agrippina loses her grip on events.
'Tyranny always promises good things.' Power and succession are in the very bones of Rome. Agrippina – desperate to cling onto power – has ensured her son, Nero, is the Roman Emperor, in place of his half-brother and the rightful heir. But the corridors of power and Nero’s own obsession turn a once virtuous ruler into an oppressive tyrant. This noble tragedy explores monarchy, dictatorship and depravity. Translated and adapted by Timberlake Wertenbaker, a tour de force, once described as “’the doyenne of political theatre”, this epic new production is directed by Atri Banerjee, winner of The Stage Debut Award for Best Director for his production of Tanika Gupta’s version of Hobson’s Choice.