Friday, 31 March 2017

Adventures in Classical Theatreland

One of the best things about my job is involvement  in exciting productions of classics-related plays. Right now I’m getting down and dirty with three creative teams. They’re doing a Greek tragic trilogy, a comedy based on the Roman plays of Plautus, and an English tragedy based on part of Virgil’s Aeneid respectively.

50 Terrified Egyptian Suppliant Maidens
The Actors’ Touring Company’s Suppliants of Aeschylus was a runaway hit at Edinburgh Festival last year, with a chorus of local citizens, and is currently playing in Manchester. Last Saturday I got stars in my eyes when I was invited at five minutes’ notice to perform the opening libation to the theatre-god Dionysus, and am now expecting an Oscar nomination.  

ATC are bringing the production to London, and are expanding it by adding new material to reconstruct the other three plays with which it was performed in its original group. So I’m thrilled to be helping them with the fragments and other evidence. It will open at the Young Vic on November 13th so get it in your diaries!

Fun with Plautus at the RSC
Meanwhile, I met the hilarious cast of Vice Versa, a new comedy by Phil Porter based on Plautus’ Braggart Soldier, opening in Stratford next month. The delights include a talking monkey, fake twin prostitutes, an exceptionally clever slave and lots of updating. Since the obscenity is confined to Latin swear-words I provided being muttered in asides, it is a perfect introduction to Roman ribaldry for all the family.

As one of those weird people who prefer Marlowe to Shakespeare, I couldn’t be happier than to be made official consultant on Dido, Queen of Carthage, directed for the RSC by the innovative Kimberley Sykes.  Opening on 15th September, this promises to be an unsettling, noir-ish experience complete with Carthaginian iconography.

With Tony Harrison, Jane Harrison & Sian Thomas
 in the Greek theatre at Sebastopol
And to take the biscuit, Tony Harrison’s long-awaited Iphigenia in Crimea, with which I’ve been involved from its inception, is at last to be broadcast by BBC Radio on April 23rd.  There is a Greek proverb ‘The Greeks Are Everywhere’. They—and the ancient Romans, Egyptians, Carthaginians and Crimean Taurians—are certainly going to be unavoidable this year in British theatreland.


  1. I am going to see Suppliant Women tonight in Manchester- cannot wait as the reviews have been great. Let's see who performs the libation tonight!
    Liv Sample

  2. I'm going to see Suppliant Women this evening in Manchester. Let's see who performs the libation tonight!

  3. I saw the ATC production of Suppliant Women in Newcastle and was overwhelmed - at last a chorus that really lived up to its ancient reputation. I'm urging everyone I know to see it at the Young Vic.

  4. Truly wonderful work. I particularly look forward to Tony Harrison's Iphigenia in Crimea and what a lovely snapshot that is of you with the Harrisons.