There was a lot to admire about the KCL Wasps (in Greek, with English surtitles)–clearly Rosa Wicks had applied a substantial directorial intelligence to her task, and the realisation of the chorus, dressed in Jazz Age pinstripe suits with yellow ties and performing music based on tunes of the same era was the best I can remember seeing. Of course, you might claim that introducing modern (not pastiche-ancient) music introduces a whole new alien world of colour and feeling, but I don’t care. Guys, you were brilliant!
If you’re interested in what to do with the chorus in a Greek play this was was a very instructive evening–the director took the chorus to a place that can’t have been at all authentic (since the music was too dominant) but where it wasn’t the chorus of a song-and-dance show or an opera either.
Apart from that, there was a certain amount of characters standing around pushing dialogue at each other that will have made little sense to the uninitiated. The trial of Labes kind of reached the necessary Aristophanic weirdness–especially when Demadogue put forward his case with quite unexpected gentility–and kind of didn’t. And the transition to the major at the end where Philokleon kicks over the traces and the thing descends into a party went past a bit quickly. On the other hand, the scene of Dardanis feeling up Philokleon went very well, helped by the traditional British comedy device of hairy bloke in dress and stockings. Philokleon didn’t necessarily know all of his lines and (more culpably) was a great deal too genteel, when he should have been Steptoe to Bdelykleon’s Son.
At the end, the porter had kindly found the woolly hat that I’d left behind outside and it occurred to me that Aristophanes would have appreciated being staged round the back of an STD clinic.
‘Clouds’ on the other hand seemed to me to be done rather too matter-of-factly. Our Strepsiades was certainly vigorous enough, but again far too genteel in expression given that he had married above himself and thus inflicted upon himself a spoiled and spendthrift sun. (Actually, the visual aid pictured above that demonstrated how Pheidippides got his name was rather funny.) There was a lot of Strepsiades, Socrates and the Clouds pushing unfunny and incomprehensible dialogue at each other–one the one hand, you really need professional actors to make that kind of thing work and on the other since the plot involves students and teachers you might have expected some local references–but no, not that I noticed.
The places that worked were where the thing reverted to good old-fashioned British slapstick–a theatrical language that both performers and students understood–as when ‘Chris’ was summoned from the audience and made into a fall guy. The Better Argument’s yearning for the good old days with boys’ genitals not only uncovered but also oiled was quite nice, but not really salacious enough.
See here for what I know about other Greek plays on in London.