Posts Tagged ‘KCL’

Prometheus Bound, Greenwood Theatre 1430 8 February

February 8, 2017

**

prometheus

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…

 

 

 

 

 

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Alkestis, Greenwood Theatre 1900 10 February

February 11, 2016

***

We have been asked whether we would recommend a visit to the 2016 Greek Play, on the basis of the Wednesday evening performance–after all, Edith Hall did tweet 2016 King’s College London Greek play better than ever.

I think it would be worth seeing as a reasonably typical example of the KCL Greek Play, illustrating the difficulties one faces in staging such a thing and the way one might go about solving them.  One of these issues is that one does not have actors experienced in voice projection and dominating the stage.  So having them follow what I think was ancient performance practice by miming what the were talking about was a good idea, while having Alkestis deliver many of her lines at the stage rather than the audience was not.

It’s worthwhile noting that, in contrast to the Alkestis-derived Cocktail Party I recently saw in Notting Hill, none of the actors fluffed their lines–advanced electronic prompting may have been employed to this end.  But there was systematic underplaying, especially from Heracles, who may perhaps have been reading his lines from the label on his bottle of wine.

The dance passages were the most effective and some of the choreography was very good.  I’m not sure that the director ever came to a clear idea about what she was trying to do–the programme made great play of a contemporary setting, which in the event appeared only in the form of cocktail glasses and a wind-up gramophone–and she hadn’t established control over time, so that some important passages (such as Herakles asking who had died or indeed Admetos finding out who Heracles had brought to him) passed by quickly and some more routine passages didn’t.

It looked like the choral odes had been solved at the last moment by getting one person to read them via a recording over a musical backing, which may have been somewhat of a last-minute expedient.

We had certain technical problems on the night.  The scene changes lasted a long time, which may have been deliberate but if so that still wasn’t a good idea. There were also problems with the lighting cues, and especially with the surtitles, which were often a line or more early or late and ceased entirely towards the end, leaving the audience rather puzzled as to what if anything had happened to conclude the piece.

There was indeed a facility to buy tickets at the door, to answer another question…

‘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.