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Carthage Must Be Destroyed review at Traverse Edinburgh

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In a time of domestic unrest, a leader whose popularity is waning and who wants to retain their grip on power can do so by taking their country to war.

And in a democracy, however skin deep its suffrage might be, said leader needs to both ensure the country is clamouring for the fight and the finances are in position, long before they publicly take their premeditated decision.

Such cynically Machiavellian manoeuvring finds obvious modern resonances, particularly when the leader professes a moral high ground. But in Alan Wilkins’ tough script, given a muscular and determined production under director Lorne Campbell, this is Rome in the time of the Third Punic War.

Tony Guilfoyle gives a horribly plausible performance as Cato, preparing his inner coterie with an off-the-record meeting. Sean Campion’s nicely judged senator Gregor, a dilettante with a penchant for young boys, will spread rumours of war. Damian Lynch, beautifully pitched as the pedantic, up-and-coming Marcus, will massage the statistics.

The first half, set in the steamy atmosphere of designer Kenny Miller’s shining baths, is a confidently pronounced analysis of an empire preparing for war – with the added frisson of Paul-James Corrigan as Cato’s gauche young nephew added to the mix.

More should be made of these established characters in the dragging second half – largely played out by Gregor and a Carthaginian youth in a villa overlooking Carthage at the end of its long siege.

Although this shortcoming does not spoil the vicious precision of the final denouement.

Production Information

Traverse, Edinburgh, April 27-May 19

Alan Wilkins
Lorne Campbell
Traverse Theatre Company
Cast includes
Damian Lynch, Sean Campion, Paul-James Corrigan,Tony Guilfoyle
Running time
2hrs 40mins

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