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Cyprus Internet Directory [ Whatson by Chris Ekin-Wood ]

Whatson by Chris Ekin-Wood

Old world tragedy and comedy

Gird your loins for stirring drama as the 12th International Festival of Ancient Greek Drama kicks off

Competition to perform at this year’s International Festival of Ancient Greek Drama, starting on Friday, has been high with the final selection totalling eight theatre companies from Cyprus, Romania, Greece, Italy, Israel and a multi-cultural group called Astragali Theatro.

The opening performance by the Radu Stanca National Theatre of Romania of Electra is an interpretation that follows the versions by both Sophocles and Euripides, the latter with its more realistic portrayal of events and the former’s almost ritualistic enactment of the psychological anguish endured by Electra and Orestes both before and after the killing of Clytemnestra that avenges their father’s death. This promises an evening of high drama.

Then follows a first for the festival – Plutus (Wealth) by Aristophanes – performed by the Cyprus Theatre Organisation (CTO), which tells the tale of Chremylus who has been to the oracle of Delphi to find out whether it makes sense to remain poor but honest. The god Apollo tells him to follow the first person he encounters on leaving the oracle. He dutifully follows a blind beggar, who turns out to be the god of wealth. This is the last of Aristophanes’ existing plays and reflects the transition from Old Comedy, in which the chorus was a central feature, to the New Comedy of Menander and the Romans, where the humour derives from primarily social situations and comic types.

The Birds by Aristophanes follows, presented by the Theatro Technis Karolos Koun from Greece. This is always amusing entertainment with the wonderfully comic characters of Pisthetaerus and Euelpides. It was written in 414BC after the fragile Peace of Nicias had failed and at a time when the Athenians had embarked on an ill-fated navel expedition against Sicily. Birds, despite its celebratory nature, is a bitter comment by Aristophanes. It seems that birds are more competent at creating an ideal state than humans and that birds can order the world more effectively than the gods. While the chorus of different birds was (and remains) a pretext for lavish costumes, it is remarkable that the 22 speaking parts were probably originally performed by only three, possibly four, actors.

The first of two productions of Euripides’ Medea will then be performed by the Teatro Instabile Di Aosta of Italy. The play has some of the finest situation drama in the Greek repertoire relating how Medea, a foreigner from Colchis who deceived her father and killed her brother to help Jason win the Golden Fleece, now finds herself betrayed by him: Jason has determined to abandon her to marry the daughter of the King of Corinth. Worse still, Medea will be forced to leave Corinth, never to see Jason or her children again. Medea resolves to kill the king and his daughter, and, to cause Jason the greatest possible suffering, she will also murder their two young sons. This is a domestic, almost psychological study of a woman in extremis.

Then comes The Persians, an intriguing play by Aeschylus presented in a multicultural production under the heading of Astragali Teatro. It is the earliest existing Greek tragedy and the only one to be based on a historical rather than a mythical incident: the victory of the Greeks at the sea battle of Salamis in 480BC, in which Aeschylus himself took part. It formed the central piece of a trilogy, possibly following one about the Battle of Marathon (in 490BC) and preceding one that celebrated the Athenian victory. It is made more interesting by focusing on the suffering of the vanquished and is most haunting in its reflection that ‘whenever mortals go astray a God will help them on their way to misery’.

The penultimate production is Ajax by Sophocles, thought to be the earliest of his tragedies but written when he was already in his fifties. It is the only one of his plays in which there is visible divine intervention. It chronicles the fate of the warrior Ajax after the events of the Iliad and the Trojan War.

The final production in this season of ancient Greek drama is Antigone by Sophocles, presented by the Habiman National Theatre/Cameri Theatre of Israel. It tells of the sons of Oedipus, Eteocles and Polyneices, who have killed each other in battle over their inheritance. Since Eteocles died defending the city of Thebes, new ruler Creon orders that he alone shall be accorded an honourable burial, while Polynieces’ corpse is left to rot outside the walls of the city. Their mourning sisters Antigone and Ismene argue about this decree, Antigone resolving to defy Creon and bury Polyneices, while Ismene advises caution. Antigone is caught in the act and is condemned to death by Creon for disobeying the law. The piece ends with more corpses than Hamlet and reflects the clash of civil law versus religious law, of political expediency versus humanity.

The entire festival promises some great drama and comedy.

12th International Festival of Ancient Greek Drama
Electra Rado Stanca National Theatre, Romania
Friday July 4 Paphos Ancient Odeon
Saturday July 5 Curium Ancient Theatre, Limassol
PLUTUS Cyprus Theatre Organisation
Tuesday Juky 8 Paphos Ancient Odeon
THE BIRDS Theatro Technis Karolos Koun, Greece
Thursday July 10 Paphos Ancient Odeon
Friday July 11 Makarios III Amphitheatre, Nicosia
Sunday July 13 Curium Ancient Theatre, Limassol
MEDEA Teatro Instabile Di Aosta, Italy
Wednesday July 16 Paphos Ancient Odeon
Thursday July 17 Makarios III Amphitheatre, Nicosia
THE PERSIANS Astragali Teatro
Friday July 18 Paphos Ancient Odeon
Sunday July 20 Curium Ancient Theatre, Limassol
Monday July 21 Makarios III Amphitheatre, Nicosia
MEDEA Semio Theatre, Greece
Friday July 25 Paphos Ancient Odeon
Saturday July 26 Curium Ancient Theatre, Limassol
Monday July 28 Makarios III Amphitheatre, Nicosia
AJAX Attis Theatre, Greece
Wednesday July 30 Paphos Ancient Odeon
Thursday July 31 Curium Ancient Theatre, Limassol
Friday August 1 Makarios III Amphitheatre, Nicosia
ANTIGONE Habiman National Theatre/Cameri Theatre, Israel
Friday August 1 Paphos Ancient Odeon
Saturday August 2 Curium Ancient Theatre, Limassol

All performances start at 9pm. Tickets €17 each performance, €8 for senior citizens, students, national guard. Available from: Paphos - Moufflon Bookshop 26 934850, Stokkos 26 947037 & Time Out 26 949522; Limassol – IMZ Copy Centre 25 352858; Nicosia – School For Blind Office opp. Makarios III Amphitheatre. Festival info: 99 542165 or 22 674920

(Source: Cyprus Mail)

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