Thesmophoriazusae, Classics@Kent/Gulbenkian Theatre 14 March

****

As everyone knows, Thesmophoriazusae involves Euripides persuading his relative Mnesilochus to infiltrate the women who are assembled at the festival of the Thesmophoria and dissuade them from taking their revenge on him for the negative portrayal of women in his tragedies.  So Mnesilochus is first of all disguised as a woman and then uncovered.  With hilarious consequences.

This was the most successful production of a Greek play I’d seen for some time.  I especially enjoyed the brilliant combination of the hero’s giant phallus becoming erect at the most inappropriate moments with the traditional British bra-on-over-dress.  The sexually explicit disco episodes were also highly effective, and some of the scenes where Euripides and Mnesilochus aped the heroes from Euripides’ plays as Euripides tried to rescue Mnesilochus came off.  Some is a great deal better than you normally get.

The scene where Euripides entered suspended from a machina and found himself helplessly facing the wrong way at the critical moments reduced the audience to helpless laughter as well.  And the appearance of Echo, whited-up and dressed in purple to dispute with the Scythian archer was also extremely well handled.

Since this was a student production, we should pay tribute to the effectiveness of the chorus in not appearing young and good-looking.  The usual and forgivable faults of waving arms about and not allowing sufficient pauses can be passed over in silence.  What you need for Greek drama is a director who knows what the play is meant to say and how to put it across, and in this case we had three directors who had certainly worked things out pretty well between them.

Well done everybody, and especially Tom Wright for his very wide-ranging performance as Mnesilochus the Aristophanic Everyman.

(See here for Greek plays I know about in London.)

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