The Suppliant Women, Northern Stage Newcastle, 04 November

****

wearvalleysuppliant

Picture from Wear Valley Advertiser–don’t blame me if it’s from another location

 

You have to admire the sheer audacity of this production, and the attempt to make Greek drama the central event in the life of the city, the way it used to be.

As everyone knows, the basis of the story is that the 50 daughters of Danaos have fled to Argos from Egypt to claim sanctuary in their ancestral homeland (though they look foreign–it’s complicated) and avoid marriage with the 50 sons of Aiguptos, their cousins.

At the beginning, Omar Ebrahim introduced the play and a local dignitary in charge of Arts and Education who thanked the audience for providing 50% of the funding, the taxpayer for 40%, private donors for 5% before suggesting that the remaining 5% could be made up from bar takings.

The standout feature of the evening was of course the chorus of local women (well, lasses more like) who sang beautifully and danced effectively–when the chorus sang in parts accompanied by drum and aulos that really was something alien and beautiful.  We did also get to enjoy Aeschylus as a religious thinker, coming to the idea of a supreme god and the doctrine of grace without benefit of revelations in the Judaean or Arabian desert.  And as a convinced proponent of democracy–Pelasgos although king refers the decision as to what to do about the Danaids to the citizens of Argos, and  they decide, well,…

What didn’t work so well for me was the way that towards the end the adaptor David Greig after holding out valiantly could no longer resist falling into modern feminist and human-rights attitudes–Aeschylus is more complicated than that, and so is our life.  The whole point of Greek tragedy is to abstract and distance and transcend the categories of thinking they normally used (never mind us). But a production that realises the main thing is the ideas, not some sordid family misfortune, and the main way of conveying it is  the chorus is very very close to the right path.

And what daring, what audacity, what vision…

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