Posts Tagged ‘Greenwood Theatre’

Prometheus Bound, Greenwood Theatre 1430 8 February

February 8, 2017



At the end:  chorus–Prometheus–Io

Prometheus Bound certainly made an interesting choice for this year’s KCL Greek Play in Greek.  One question is whether it actually is a play or merely a scene-setting for following parts of a trilogy.  Nothing much happens apart from various characters coming to sympathise with or talk sense into Prometheus and him referring to the injustices he has suffered and the dark secret he knows.

I remember a production at the Soho Theatre where the clientele were expected to be satisfied by a combination of the manly heaving of the hero’s bare breast and chains.  Lots of chains.  But here it wasn’t quite like that.  We had a female Prometheus, and Oceanus, and whichever it is of Force and Violence that doesn’t actually say anything.

More generally, I’m afraid that there was no sign of a solution to the severe problems posed by staging this piece.  It started off with projections of various modern figures, especially Donald Trump, and you could see how Prometheus might be a kind of Nelson Mandela in captivity, but his captors needed him more than he needed them.  Or Trotsky perhaps, who thought he had the earth-shaking prophecy and was a prisoner to his own well-founded fears. But nothing came of this possible line of thought.

Rather than being chained to a cliff with a wedge through her chest, our Prometheus had to top of a table to call her own.  For some reason sound effects and lianas suggested that this was in the jungle somewhere.  Loud sound effects meant you couldn’t hear what was being said, though the Greek verse sounded to be spoken competently enough.  At the end, Prometheus’s final defiance got lost in underwhelming stroboscopic effects..

On the positive side, the entrance of the chorus was effective, as were some of their choreographed moves.  Likewise for Io’s entry and exit, though I’m afraid she did rather remind me of the domovoy from Morphine.  And indeed there were similar surtitling issues, with lots of text appearing some time after the event.

If you ask what I would have done–well, have a much larger chorus and have them sing and dance.  In fact, have them on stage the whole time and have them  hold up the surtitles on placards, to give the idea of a debate of some importance not people  coming on stage and exchanging words about mouldy mythology…But making something out of Prometheus Bound would be difficult with the best performers and technical resources in the world…






‘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.

Persae Greenwood Theatre 11 February (KCL Greek Play 2010)

February 11, 2010


I got the picture for once!

I got the picture for once!

This time the two introductory speakers did not overshadow the main event, but were very interesting in their contrasting ways.  Simon Goldhill roamed the stage and sawed the air in the manner of a tragic heavy as he said that Persae was at first sight exceptionally boring, since it consisted largely of exclamations of woe.  He felt the point was that even your average militarised Athenian of antiquity could not watch half an hour or more of his defeated enemy weeping without giving room to subversive thoughts along the lines of Is what we are doing so wonderful? So this was why there had been a sudden spate of performances recently, especially in the USA, now that we were once more at war with the east.  He also made the good point that when the Athenian citizen of antiquity voted for war–which he did with great frequency–he was voting to send himself to war, and not some disaffected working-class youths.

In the contrasting soubrette role of sceptical historian of Ancient Persia, Dr Lindsay Allen wisely decided to skip over the many ways in which Aeschylus’s depiction of the Persian court was complete bollocks in favour of showing some slides to illustrate how cool it was to visit Iran.  And also pointing out that since Xerxes had succeeded to the throne by being born instead of winning it by killing lots of people like his father Darius he felt some issues about his right to rule; and the tombs of the Persian kings were positioned so as to place the dead king in a community with other kings and their family and the peoples of the Persian Empire, so that Darius appearing on his own in Aeschylus’s text was especially poignant.

When the play began, it was really rather wonderful.  The production made sensible use of the chorus, and masks, and Persian-style props and music.

The chorus spoke in unison (or antiphonically on occasion) and also represented the offstage disasters described by Atossa and the messengers.  Someone had conceived the idea–and it was a good one–that the piece was more like a masque than what we would call a play.  The use of melodrama (speech over music) to heighten the effect at critical passages was effective, though I’m sure I don’t approve really.

Among the individual performers–well they were good too–Charlotte Maskell (Atossa) was perhaps not commanding enough, but the scene of her pouring mixing a libation was much more gripping than the similar and allegedly far more dramatic voting scene in the Eumenides the previous night.  As Darius, Petros Bouras-Vallianatos  gave a wholly committed and commanding performance, in somewhat Modern-Greek-style Ancient Greek.  The two messengers of Oliver Mitchell and Jasmine Kirkbride were extremely effective, especially in kicking and beating the chorus as these latter represented vanquished Persians.

As Xerxes, Ben Donaldson pleaded with a now-implacable chorus like a ship tossed against rocks in a storm, in the end seated himself the throne vacant in the centre of the stage

–ἰὴ ἰὴ τρισκάλμοισιν,
ἰὴ ἰή, βάρισιν ὀλόμενοι

–turned his head away in disgust–the lights went down–the curtain came down–the rest was clapping and shouting.

There were some problems of ensemble in the chorus from time to time, and the surtitles were not always very synchronised with the speech.  But this was a fine example of how a student production works when it’s successful–when there’s an idea they can get hold of.  And especial congratulations to twin directors Rosamund Williams and Charlotte Domanski in succeeding so triumphantly with the apparently unstageable.