Aristophanes’ ancient Athenian comedy has been brought vividly to life for the Festival Hellenika by Adapt Enterprises and director Ross Vosvotekas.
The famous comedy sees a congress of women from all over Greece agreeing to stage a sex strike against their soldier men to stop the war between Sparta and Athens which, in 411 BC, had already been going on for 18 years.
Vosvotekas has brought together a cast of actors, stand-up comedians and musicians of varied levels of experience and merged them into an ensemble which works pretty well.
Petra Taylor, as the rabid Kalonike, and Olivia Fairweather, as the temptress Myrrhine, stand out. But there are numerous highlights: Chris Roberts commands the stage as the pompous Magistrate and also as the Spartan herald, while Sean Watters makes an impressively frustrated Kinesias. Possibly taking the honours, though, is Vosvotekas himself as the leader of the chorus of Old Men. His vocal and facial expressions wring every charming drop of comedy from his scenes, particularly those with the lead Old Woman, played by Gia Pyrlis.
A modern, highly colloquial translation gives the show immediacy and omits some of the more obscure ancient references, but still sticks pretty well to the original. Music is always a problem; no one really knows how the ancient music and choral work sounded, so accompaniments have to be improvised. This production is blessed with original songs by young musicians Hannah Yates and Joseph Moore that create an extra layer in the production and are fitting in tone There is original use of props throughout; the leopard skin phalli has to be seen to be believed – very creatively used.
Ancient Greek theatre is rarely produced in Adelaide and sometimes has been overborn by auteurial invention which has clouded the impact of the original. This production pays due respect to Aristophanes, is performed by a lively cast, and what tweaking has been done has only adds to the impact.
Adapt Enterprises is presenting Lysistrata by Aristophanes at Holden Street Theatres again from May 22 to 25, and 28 to 31 as part of the Festival Hellenika multi-disciplinary arts festival.
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