Tragedic Greek Women

“He was crying all morning.

Off his food

What does she know?

She sees him for five minutes then she’s off to work.

Eventually I got him down.

But ten minutes later he was off again.”

From Hypsipyle in Washington

Niamh Cusack (Photo: The Other Richard)

Colin Teevan’s  The Seven Pomegranate Seeds  was first produced at the Oxford Playhouse in 2006.  After a radio production at the beginning  of lockdown in January 2020, Colin Teevan has amended his seven monologues, each based on a Greek woman in plays mostly by Euripides, under the title The Seven Pomegranate Seeds.

Some of the seven are better known than the others: Persephone, the daughter of Demeter, Goddess of Nature, who is raped in the Underworld and made to stay there for half the year after eating a few pomegranate seeds.  Set by Teevan in Yorkshire but reminiscent of the Moors Murders, Persephone is separated from her mother and raped by dark forces. pulled underground.

There is the lesser known Hypsipyle, in Aeschylus’s play, who saved her father from the mass killings of the men of the island of Lemnos, after the men had murdered all the children of the abducted Athenian women.  The women welcomed the Argonauts provided they agreed to breed with them.  The queen, Hypsipyle mothered boy twins by Jason.  Later the women find out whom she saved and sell her into slavery.  As a slave,  she cares for a royal child who is killed by a serpent when she neglects him.   This monologue taking place in Washington may have parallels with the British au Pair Louise Woodward who was accused of shaking the baby in her care to death.  The case hinged on the American interpretation of the expression that “she popped the baby on the bed”.

Medea in the Midlands retells the Greek myth in the context of extreme domestic violence where her husband pleads that he “is bringing home the bacon”.  The parallel is Medea’s being abandoned by Jason for his new wife in Corinth. 

Alcestis in Covent Garden: The Fates agree that King of Sicily can live if his mother, father or wife Alcestis were to die for him instead.  Alcestis agrees but is restored from the Underworld by Persephone.  In the modern version the wife of a restauranteur agrees to donate half her liver, falls ill but she is in turn saved by Pierce Brosnan.

Phedra of the Fells.  Phedra falls in love with her stepson Hippolytus and he ends up dying.  In this short monologue a woman drowns her sorrows in alcohol as she tells her stepson how attractive she finds him. 

Creusa in Shoreditch: Creusa is the wife of Aeneas who goes home to lead his father out of Troy.  Creusa falls behind and dies in Troy but Aeneas escapes with their child.  The modern story is one of infertility where a Syrian child is adopted.

Finally, Demeter who had lost her child Persephone to the Underworld parallels the story of Madeleine McCann who disappeared and whose parents continue to hunt and hope that she is alive. 

Niamh Cusack has such a range of expression and a lovely,; haunting voice..  She last collaborated here at the Rose with director Melly Still, for Elena Ferrante’s wonderful Neapolitan Quartet, My Brilliant Friend.  She is joined by Shannon Hayes who has great promise. 

The monologues are interesting but the audience needs more explanation or preparation for this verbally dense piece.  Add on to the 80 minutes a panel to answer questions about the production and it would be more enriching.

Melly Still has many visual ideas that are beautiful to look at.  There is the string tying up all those unoccupied seats ensuring social distancing.  There is string onstage too which forms a complex web of interconnectivity as the actors run with a thread and weave back.  The ending of each monologue is weighted down by a heavy stone and has its thread cut. Malcolm Rippeth’s lighting is full of atmosphere and there is Jon Nicholls’s engrossing music and sound.    These images are what we will remember but we may not comprehend what they mean.   

Perhaps the way to enjoy The Seven Pomegranate Seeds is not to worry about meaning but to let the experience float over and around us? 

Shannon Hayes (Photo: The Other Richard)

Production Notes

The Seven Pomegranate Seeds
Written by Colin Teevan

Directed by Melly Still



Niamh Cusack

Shannon Hayes


Director: Melly Still

Lighting Designer: Malcolm Rippeth

Composer and Sound Designer: Jon Nicholls

Associate Designer: Amanda Ramasawmy


Running Time: One hour 20 minutes

without an interval

but ran longer on opening night

Booking to 20th November 2021


The Rose

24-26 High St

Kingston upon Thames



Rail: Kingston

Reviewed by Lizzie Loveridge at the

Rose Theatre, KIngston

on 10th November 2021