Posts Tagged ‘Bloomsbury Theatre’

‘Wasps’ (Greenwood Theatre)/ ‘Clouds’ (Bloomsbury Theatre) 12 February

February 15, 2014

***(*)/**(*)

Surprisingly successful curtain-call photo displays modest phalloi and the chorus's natty costume

Surprisingly successful curtain-call photo displays (mostly) modest phalloi and the chorus’s natty costumes

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.

Picture appropriated from The Tab student nespaper

‘Clouds’ picture appropriated from The Tab student newspaper

‘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.

Choephori/Eumenides Bloomsbury Theatre 10 February

February 11, 2010

**

Easily the best performance of the evening came from Oliver Taplin in the pre-match talk.  Once he had shambled on looking alarmingly like the kind of derelict you see hanging around the Moscow metro (and with a suspicious bottle of clear liquid in his hand) he held the attention of a capacity crowd–in fact, probably more than there were for the plays themselves–for half an hour, and could easily have done so for much longer.  Maria Wyke was pretty good in a supporting role as well.

At the end, we were left with the question of why the plays of Aeschylus written two and a half millennia ago seem more relevant than nearly all of those written in the intervening period.  Then all we have to do is work out how sheepsguts should hale souls out of men’s bodies.

As for the plays:  there were some signs of sound directorial ideas in Choephori–at least Agamemnon’s tomb was not downstage centre, while Orestes and Electra raised and lowered their arms appropriately when invoking celestial and chthonic deities.  But Orestes seemed to be having difficulty remembering his lines and even made a brief exit-and-return during the tomb scene with Electra.  Kelly Agathos as Clytemnestra provided the best acting on display–though I have to release my inner bitch by saying that while being blatantly young, good-looking and well-dressed is rarely a handicap for an actress, it doesn’t really fit here.

The dead Clytemnestra and Aegisthus were dragged around for no apparent reason (a reference to Hamlet via I’ll lug the guts into the neighbor room perhaps, as well as to the death of Agamemnon), which provoked some nervous laughter in the audience.

The Eumenides after the break was in many ways more encouraging.  We had a video appearance from the late Cytemnestra in black-and-white and the Erinyes presented themselves very effectively on the whole, though they did have some appallingly anodyne music and dance steps given who they were supposed to be.  The gold-tanned Apollo of Sam Smullen was pretty good, as was the silver-painted Clare Glenister as Athena.  But there was again a tendency to rush through the forensic exchanges as not being very interesting to the audience, when I think you need to pause and allow the twists and turns to sink in.

At the end, one had the feeling that the production’s sympathies were with the Erinyes–the programme notes certainly favoured their cause.

I just about managed to avoid being pissed upon by some drunken students from the UCL Union on the way to the Tube–divine retribution for thinking disrespectfuly of Professor Taplin…