The play is about a woman, Phèdre, who falls in love with the son of her husband, a son from a previous marriage. To protect herself, she sends the son away, but, of course, they end up together on an island. There she hears news that her husband is dead. She reveals her love to his young heir, but news soon comes that her husband isn't dead.
The husband, a king, Thésée, is a hero, but a brutal one, especially with women, a life his son has turned from.
"It has a wonderful dynamic of unrequited love between a younger man and an older women," says director Peter Evans. "But it's also about fathers and sons, and what it's like to be the son of such a famous and infamous father."
The role of Phèdre is to be played by Catherine McClements.
"She's one of our smartest, but also our bravest and gruntiest actors," says Evans. "A lot of what Phèdre goes through is pain and humiliation. It's a wonderful role, but to completely go into the darkness of that, it requires a certain level of emotional bravery."
The story is rooted in Greek myth and was first saw the stage by Euripides. The Roman playwright Seneca had a shot at it 500 years later, and the French genius, Racine 1600 years after that. Racine's version is considered a classic – perhaps the classic – of French tragedy. "It's seen sort of the way we would see Hamlet," says Evans. "But we're so interested because so many Australians wouldn't haven't seen it."
Bell Shakespeare are using a translation of Racine's play by the English poet Ted Hughes. "Hughes is famous for his animal imagery and his hunting imagery," says Evans. "It's a very visceral and very bloody translation, and in the free verse form, it's got a muscularity."