Lysistrata: The Disco Vaudeville Rock'n'Roll Musical

The title is probably the most interesting thing about this adaptation of Lysistrata, but any potential that it implies is sadly missed by the show itself. Lysistrata: The Disco Vaudeville Rock'n'Roll Musical sounds like it should be a barrel of laughs, taking a very silly Greek comedy and supposedly making it sillier. Yet somehow this adaptation has drained most of the humour that Aristophanes wove into it and has left in its place an incredibly dull musical.

Aristophanes’ original performance would have indeed incorporated song and dance routines, now sadly lost to us. Unfortunately, bar a tap-dance battle between the chorus and the police, which itself shows signs of promise before ending rather limply, these songs and routines are not particularly memorable. They’re certainly not at all funny and serve as a reminder of how long an hour and a half really is. This is not to say that they’re not sung well (though Lysistrata herself quite blatantly mimes using a guitar at one point), but even a company of fairly good singers can only work with the material they are given.

The singing quality was very strong, and a special mention must go to the leader of the female chorus, who was very good both theatrically and musically, even when the show itself was not helping her out. By and large, the acting was acceptable though some of the cast appeared to have an aversion to expressing anything with their faces. As a young company, time to settle into the run may well improve this. The costumes must be mentioned as they felt suitably updated whilst retaining an ancient feel.

11:30 a.m. is a very odd time to try and put on a raunchy Greek comedy and perhaps this accounts for the slightly schizophrenic tone. At times, hilarious rude Aristophanes lines are watered down and limply replaced, while other jokes were dragged out so long they lost all humour. This made the swearing in the second half come as something of a shock and it feels completely out-of-place with the apparent earlier attempts to tone it down. Lysistrata, and most other Greek comedies for that matter, only work if you fully commit to the ridiculousness of the situation. In an attempt to be both a comedy and musical, Lysistrata commits to nothing and falls flat on its face because of it. It tries to add some ridiculousness of its own – three of the characters are turned into pig puppets for no adequately explained reason. One of them is given a ‘hilarious’ accent. Nobody laughed. Not even when they had erections.

There are far funnier translations available for free in circulation. This adaptation seemed stuck somewhere between ancient and modernised and thus ends up as a weird unsatisfactory mesh of the two.

Reviews by James Beagon

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Performances

The Blurb

Twenty-first century meets 400 BC in this modern classical battle of the sexes. Featuring original music, dance, puppetry, battle scenes. ‘The musical numbers will echo in your head for days’ (News Times).