REVIEW: The Cambridge Greek Play 2016

Thank god we have Lysistrata to make up for Antigone

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Cambridge finalists, Classics students and all lovers of Greek theatre were highly anticipating the triennial Cambridge Greek Play.

Sophocles’ renowned tragedy Antigone was followed by Aristophanes’ comedy Lysistrata, in a dramatic pairing necessary for getting enjoyment out of the event, as the hilarity of the second play makes up for the sloppy lack of imagination in the first.

Can can a la Athens

Can-Can à la Athens

Antigone – 2.5 stars

Antigone suffers mainly because none of its principal characters manage to carry any real weight in their performances. Evie Butcher’s Antigone struggled to resonate with the audience and she stumbles around the stage – it’s more often than not unclear who she’s addressing and why. Her tone doesn’t change from being anything else than indignant throughout, overlooking the emotional nuance of the play’s investment in family.

Kaiti Soultana’s Ismene often out-staged her sister with a stronger sense of passion and an impressive command of Greek which she continues to show in Lysistrata. Whilst Orlando Gibbs’ Creon was an unconvincing leader, Jack Hawkins‘s Teiresias ticked all the boxes but didn’t do much else.

Praise should be given to Joe Sefton for his impressive portrayal of Haemon. Sefton is one of the few cast members who appears to know what he is actually saying instead of just reciting Greek – his body language matches his words well, and it pays off.

The creative decision to put the play in a modern setting is nothing more than arbitrary, and apart from a strong set, nothing is done to take advantage of it. This is only done well in Lysistrata. The play also wasn’t helped by the fact that the digital surtitles were so often failing to keep up with fast-paced dialogue.

Antigone’s redeeming quality is the chorus. Though the choreography can at times feel quite cringeworthy, the chorus really excel at bringing the stage to life. Their pacing is excellent and you can tell they are well rehearsed, offering strong dramatic and musical performances. Matt Coote’s performance should be commended for holding the strongest stage presence and really standing out.

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Director Helen Eastman

Lysistrata – 4 stars

Lysistrata is nothing short of a triumph because it’s just so damn funny. Not a “ah yes very good” funny, not an exhale through the nose because you appreciate the wit funny, but genuine tears-in-your eyes hilarious.

The cast is superb. Natasha Cutler’s Lysistrata commanded the stage with sass and attitude, backed up by a chorus of equally strong characters. Rosanna Suppa’s Stratyllis was a gem of physical comedy, Hollie Witton’s Calonice was a real crowd-pleaser, and Amber Reeves-Pigott boasted some serious vocal talent in her role as Myrrhine. Refreshing considering the amount of missed notes you have to pretend not to notice in Antigone.

With each of the female chorus coming into their own, the male chorus does a fabulous job too. Their energy, bravado and charm made for great chemistry with the girls and the choreography between the two choruses was very impressive. Why couldn’t we get the same in Antigone?!

Every comedic beat in the play was struck. The decision to go with a modernised setting finally paid off. References to Boris Johnson, Trump and Farage were brilliantly executed, and the use of self-aware surtitles which gave the audience meta-messages and references was inspired.

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Credit: The Cambridge Greek Play

It’s difficult to believe that both plays fall under the direction of the same person, with the first feeling lacklustre in so many places and yet the second boasting such animated, hilarious and precise performances.

All in all though, the Greek Play proved to be a success, if not quite worth the three-year wait.