Women on the Edge brings new life to Greek tragedies

Published: 10 December 2010 at 15:24

Anglia Contemporary Theatre presents a short series of contemporary adaptations of Greek tragedies and comedies

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With the pantomime season fading along with 2010, Anglia Contemporary Theatre sees in 2011 with a short season of contemporary adaptations of Greek plays. Women on the Edge showcases 21st Century takes on works by Greek dramatists Euripides and Aristophanes, interpreted and re-staged by ninety-three Anglia Ruskin University students.

The adaptations take the traditional concept of the Greek chorus (choros) and place it firmly  within the 21st Century theatre-landscape of the post-dramatic. Traditionally the chorus stays in the background of the action, conveying summary information to help an audience follow the piece and possibly even guiding their responses to the play, its figures and their actions. Some of the adaptations, however, submerge the protagonists within the chorus, thereby presenting an audience with caleidoscopic spectra of the main figures’ often contradictory characteristics. This aesthetic choice lends itself to a creative re-staging of the play, as well as embraces an ensemble approach to the work, which ensures that all members of the cast have an equal role in the performance.

As Iain Stewart an ensemble member of the Medea group explains:

"The BA (Hons) Drama at Anglia Ruskin University isn’t simply taking part in a play and learning your lines by rote. It is an in-depth and interpretative course where all students are equally involved in all aspects of a performance, from the initial interpretation to the final production".

With set and costume design from Cambridge School of Art’s BA (Hons) Film, TV and Theatre Design students the performances are brought right into the 21st Century with contemporary effects, including projections that interweave with the staging and action.

Not only are the productions themselves contemporary interpretations, but the subject matter is surprisingly relevant to modern society and human relations, as Stage Manager for The Bacchae, Pam Jenner recognises:

"Being part of this production has made me realise how relevant Ancient Greek tragedy is to the 21st Century. Our exciting new interpretation of The Bacchae vividly demonstrates how lust for power and control can drive people to insanity and a depravity that knows no bounds. A cast of 20 innovative actors, an imaginative set and surreal costumes and music make this an unmissable performance."

Other performances explore themes of betrayal and revenge (Medea) and women’s influence over men (Lysistrata and Ecclesiazusae).

Medea, the first part of a double bill is on stage at The Mumford Theatre on 7 and 8 January

Medea, the barbarian from another land, the witch who betrayed her father, who killed her brother and murdered her husband's uncle apparently out of love for Jason, finds herself abandoned by her husband for another - obviously much younger - woman and the crown that comes with this new alliance. Medea's reaction to this treason made her one of the most fascinating heroines of Greek mythology. A much more lighthearted approach to the battle of the sexes is portrayed in Aristophanes' Lysistrata, the second part of the billing. This heroine is determined to put an end to killing in the name of war and persuades the women of Greece to refuse any sexual contact with their husbands until a peace treaty has been agreed upon. It seems Lysistrata has successfully identified man's weakness...

Being performed on 14 and 15 January in the Bacchae Dionysus, the arguably androgynous deity of wine, ecstasy and fertility, sets out on a journey to revenge his mother Semele. Dionysus' divine power turns a seemingly harmless worship of the god into a cannibalistic menace, resulting in Thebes' king being ripped to pieces by his own mother. The underlying gendered power struggle between rationality and ecstasy gives the play its edge even in the 21st century.
Following on from the Bacchae Aristophanes' comedy Ecclesiazusae (or The Assembly Women) forms the second part of this double-bill. Here the women of Athens succeed in their cunning plan to take over government from the men. Their proto-Communist state aims to establish equality amongst all citizens, rich and poor, women and men. Whilst lighthearted in tone, the political flavour of the play lends itself to a contemporary interpretation with bite.

Performances start at 7.30pm.

Tickets are available from the Mumford Theatre Box office: www.anglia.ac.uk/mumfordtheatre, Tel: 01223 352932 and on the door.
£10 (£7 concessions; £5 Anglia Ruskin students)

For more information about the BA (Hons) Drama, BA (Hons) Film, TV and Theatre Design or any of the performances please contact Sarah Jones, sarah.jones@anglia.ac.uk, 0845 196 2981