SUPPLIANT WOMEN

Jericho Arts Centre until December 2nd

My Two Pence

 

I am at odds with how to write this review. It takes gumption for a community theatre company to present Greek tragedy; it isn't immediately accessible to an audience and certainly isn't culinary theatre. The plot is (alas) highly relevant to continuing struggles today; concerning primarily the plight of refugees and the oppression of women. As civilisation cycles through our own seven stories[1] perhaps one day we will wake up to the truth that it has ‘all happened before’ and producing ancient plays that speak to modern day troubles is instrumental in educating our society about our cyclical evolution.

 

Do we welcome in refugees if it means causing civil unrest and perhaps inviting war? Do we stand up for women, and oppressed persons if it means upsetting a few depraved and insecure men? Arriving at my own answer to these questions requires little thought but it certainly remains a puzzler for many around the world. The fifty daughters of Danaus - United Players have chosen to show an admirable 11 – arrive on the shores of Argos after escaping in a boat from Egypt and a forced marriage to their cousins, the sons of Aegyptus.

 

The stage pictures are very striking; John R. Taylor’s set design echoes that of the steps of a Hellenic altarpiece. Mask Designer Kimira Bhikum has created exceptionally beautiful pieces which age the more modern compliment of CS Fergusson-Vaux’s costume design. The initial presentation of two fauns could have been cut straight from an urn – clear intention, choreography and execution; I was disappointed that the physical aspect of the play was largely forgotten after the first ten minutes. There was a huge opportunity for the chorus in particular to delve into space and movement which was left largely unexplored. 

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A rare choice for 500BC or indeed 2018 - Aeschylus picks the chorus to be his protagonist - Intriguing but problematic as strength in numbers also diminishes empathy. Some voices were strong, others not so; Director Adam Henderson has cast several fledging actors which in a play of this nature might have been a more interesting concept had the individual women within the chorus had more individuality. I found the majority fell flat in their delivery of overly poetic lines and there was a great deal of moaning and whining. A further stickling point for me in casting was that watching an entire group of white women most of whom looked under 30 in a story about refugees felt a little inappropriate. I appreciate that companies aren’t able to control who turns up to audition however I wish more effort had been taken to portray a diverse company especially when the script is so amenable to it. 

 

[1]The Seven Basic Plots Christopher Booker is the concept that all stories comply to one or more of only seven archetypal plots

 

 

-Liz Gloucester