Kathryn Hunter in Timon of Athens at the RSC. Credit: Simon Annand

REVIEW | Timon of Athens | RSC

Shakespeare’s lesser-known black comedy Timon of Athens appears on stage in the Swan Theatre this Christmas. Shining a light on the power of money and its ability to corrupt, we meet Timon who thinks he has it all, until he loses it all.

This gender-swapped production sees Kathryn Hunter in the title role of Timon and quite frankly this casting is a masterpiece. Not only does it bring a completely different perspective to the text, but Kathryn Hunter is incredibly commanding in the role. We meet Lady Timon, a very wealthy woman in Athens who gives her money away freely. She acquires a circle of false friends and once she loses her fortune, she discovers she doesn’t mean as much to them as they did to her. Turning their back on Timon, she spirals into a breakdown, struggling to come to term with the fact that her friends won’t help her.

Kathryn Hunter is faultless as Timon. She brings strength, warmth and intensity to the role. She is fierce and dominant yet the immense vulnerability she shows when hitting hard times makes her character feel incredibly genuine as you feel real empathy for her. Aside from her excellent characterisation, Hunter’s comedy timing is also one to be commended as she brings witty flair to the role.

Other gender-switches work superbly in the piece, such as Nia Gwynne’s excellently cynic Apemantus who is the only character that treats Timon badly during her wealth.  When Timon loses all her friends and turns her back on Athens, Apemantus and Timon realise their similarities.

 

Kathryn Hunter in Timon of Athens at the RSC. Credit: Simon Annand
Kathryn Hunter in Timon of Athens at the RSC. Credit: Simon Annand

 

The striking design by Soutra Gilmour is magnificently executed. Opening with lavish gold set complemented by the dazzling costumes, it then transitions into a wasteland where Timon emerges as her extravagant lifestyle becomes a distant memory.

Fuelling the moments of high drama is the Grecian style music that accompanies the play composed by Michael Bruce. Singer Dunia Botic intertwines within the action to add real potency to the production.

Director Simon Godwin has executed this play superbly with the pacy scenes, slick dialogue and captivating staging. Timon of Athens is an intriguing look at humankind and our relationships with each other. With fantastic theatrical performances and a narrative with real clarity, it’s a strong production.

★★★★

Timon of Athens is on at the RSC in Stratford-Upon-Avon until the 22nd of February, tickets can be found on their website.

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