The Bacchae

BEKAH-MIRON CLAYTON applauds the ambition of a production that brings an ancient Greek play into modern London.

ADC bacchae dev maitra ella duffy julia kass

ADC Theatre, Wed 6th – Sat 9th November, 11pm, £6/5

Screen Shot 2013-11-07 at 15.39.36

Constance Chapman’s bold interpretation of Euripides’ masterpiece Bacchae pushed the boundaries of the original Greek text, exploring the innate animalistic instincts apparent during the London riots. The production promised to produce the piece ‘as never before’ and certainly delivered, as the classical orgiastic followers of Dionysus were translated across for this adaptation in the form of a chaotic, hedonistic mob of rioters. The piece was modernised to an even greater extent through the use of popular music, especially and most appropriately Plan B, whose lyrics were originally targeted at the rioters themselves.

The physicality of the performance was really quite powerful, as the ‘Bacchae’ themselves became one entity through their movements. The choreography was sharp and considered, and at many points was visually very impressive. The chorus element of the Greek play was used to its full potential, and the eerie chanting of Dionysus was powerful and as all consuming as the impulse within the play – to follow instinct rather than the law.

Particularly impressive was new comer Ella Duffy, offering a subtle and understated interpretation of Agave, which really contributed to the concept as it showed the breadth of personas sucked into the riots. A personal highlight was the moment where Agave was stood defiantly on her bed as the chorus swung down, like animals, from scaffolding to chant with her – amongst the chaos of clapping, stomping and drumming, Agave’s sweet voice rose from the crowd, embodying the idea of innocence caught up in hedonistic pleasures. In complete contrast to this were the moments of comedic relief offered by the director, as a sort of swivel chair ballet was performed to display the idealistic view of the future within society. Particular members of the chorus almost made caricatures of themselves, making the satirical point of a working culture that perhaps cannot exist.

Adding to the comedic element of Bacchae were the characters of Cadmus (Julia Kass) and Tiresias (Dev Maitra), offering another dimension of individuals involved in the Riots. Kass’ characterisation of Cadmus was particularly strong, adding a lighthearted element to the play whilst simultaneously stressing the sheer variety in character. This was perhaps one of the main aims of the production, reiterated at the finish when an account was read of the rioters caught and held – including university students, an 11 year old boy and people with professional jobs.

To sum up, the production was definitely moving and came across as a brash and honest representation of Bacchae within a new concept and context. The Dionysian way translated beautifully into the idea that the London rioters were led on impulse by this innate being – the modernisation of such an ancient text was an ambitious move, but was carried through to great effect.