Bakkhai(more commonly The Bacchae) by Euripides is one of the darker, sexier Greek tragedies. This new production translated by Anne Carson is boosted by famous face Ben Whishaw as Dionysious, but ultimately falls into a mediocre middle ground between the epic intensity of the original and the convincingly contemporary reimagining of Oresteia, the first show in the Almeida Greek Season.
The Bacchae summary
Most Greek tragedies relate the battle of two competing, but equally valid, ethical values -- The Bakkhai is more unequivocal. As Dionysus made androgynously seductive by a petulant, pouting Whishaw, exacts revenge on prudish Pentheus (Bertie Carvel), the doomed king of Thebes, the audience is torn between what is most seductive and what is morally right. The most prescient, successful element of the production is the sense of cult and obsession surrounding the Dionysian god.
Carvel's career defining, cross-dressing Oliver-winning role was Miss Trunchull in Matilda the Musical. And with a wig and dress as the inconsolable murderous mother in this Greek tragedy he brings more kitsch comedy than pathos to the role. The addition of an decidedly Halloweeny rubber head and various reassembled body parts, smothered in a murky muddy blood, is oddly parodic. Instead of horror and tension we felt like onlookers on a spectacle.
With drunken violence and questions of liberation at its heart, this ancient tragedy is ripe for modern interpretation. Anne Carson's translation is as potently poetic as we'd expected, keeping the traditional model of a chorus and just three main characters. The 'army of Bakkhic women', made up predominantly of musical theatre stars with the odd operatic flourish, communicate the drama through song. The primal combination of chants, whoops and stick banging is an illuminating idea. The effect is stylish but, after two hours of stage time, stilted and not human enough to completely grip.
|What||Bakkhai, Almeida Theatre|
|Where||Almeida Theatre, Almeida Street, Islington, London, N1 1TA | MAP|
|Nearest tube||Highbury & Islington (underground)|
23 Jul 15 – 19 Sep 15, 8:00 PM – 10:30 PM
|Website||Click here to book via the Almeida Theatre|