Bacchae

Both faithful and frantic, young company Flying Pig Theatre have produced a very satisfying version of Euripides’ Bacchae with a deft touch.

Strongly recommended to anyone with even the slightest interest in the ancient world.

It is worth noting that, despite being advertised as being transported to a crumbling Victorian mansion, this doesn’t really appear to be the case in any form or fashion. But it also doesn’t really matter. The brains behind this production, Catriona Bolt and Jonny Danciger, have clearly read their Euripides well and know how to exploit it to its full potential.

Particularly impressive are the chorus sequences, transformed into impressive cult-like dances with the exact amount of fury and frenetic energy required to pull it off. Danciger has chosen the singing style well and a microphone at the back of the stage is cleverly used to allow words of the choral odes to be heard over the chanting and stamping. It’s also utilised well as part of the overall sound design, whether to mimic the sounds of birds gently in the distance or popping bubble wrap to create the effect of rustling leaves.

If this energy is where the production is at its best, it is perhaps at its weakest when things become quieter for the last 10-15 minutes. Agave, played by Rosa Garland, was very impressive throughout the show, but the directorial choice to switch back to a quieter and more naturalistic scene hindered her and jars with the tone of the rest of the piece. The pacing also suffers here, and seemed to directly contribute to the show overrunning.

Some of the actors aren’t as confident acting individually, certainly not compared to their own standards as the chorus, but the ensemble members as a whole are confident and impressive. Jonny Wiles was particularly good as Dionysus and I wanted to see much more of Francesca Amewudah-Rivers as Tiresias, though of course the script only allows for so much stage time for Tiresias anyway. The pair playing Dionysus and Pentheus alternate each night, which I imagine helps keep the production feeling fresh each night. Sam Liu was a fine Pentheus on the night, but before they even announced the alternation at the end of the show, I had the suspicion that he might have made a quality Dionysus. So much so in fact that I’m tempted to return another night.

This really feels like a production by people who enjoy and respect not only Euripides’ original play but Greek Tragedy as a whole. It is strongly recommended to anyone with even the slightest interest in the ancient world.

Reviews by James Beagon

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Performances

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The Blurb

Flying Pig Theatre’s new adaption of Euripides’ dizzying ancient tragedy sees Thebes transported to a crumbling Victorian mansion. Imaginatively retold through physical theatre and original music, this classical piece is brought to dazzling new life.

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