Sunday 28 June 2020

Ancient Theatre for the 21st Century: E-Books for All

The lockdown has made many of us experiment with new ways of accessing information and scholarship. I recommend these new multimedia ebooks, which are completely free to the public, created by my colleagues of nearly 25 years at the Oxford Archive of Performances of Greek & Roman Drama. I co-founded it in 1996 with Oliver Taplin, and remain Consultant Director, these days by ZOOM rather than the dreaded X5 Cambridge-Oxford bus.

They are the brainchild of Fiona Macintosh, Claire Kenward and Tom Wrobel. They offer a magical way to start exploring the wonderful world of ancient drama. The first one is devoted to Euripides’ Medea and is packed with materials from the APGRD's research and collections---illustrations, photographs, video and audio clips and compelling interviews with creative practitioners and academics. They tell the story of this seminal play onstage and onscreen, in dance, drama, and opera, across the globe from antiquity to the present day. There are stunning new visuals by Thom Cushieri as well.

The second play to get this lavish treatment is Aeschylus’ Agamemnon. The first instalment, Beginnings & Whose Play? can be downloaded from Apple Books at An EPUB version for android and PC will follow. So will the other two instalments,  including ‘Endings’, in which one of the interviews is with yours truly. I discuss the uniquely tense and terrifying closure of the play when Aegisthus and Clytemnestra, after seeing off a violent protest from the citizens of Argos, formally inaugurate their joint tyranny.

I can’t recommend these materials enough. I was involved heavily in the creation of the APGRD’s materials on both plays, and can vouch for their vividness and the fascination of the stories they tell. Anybody out there thinking of studying, performing or watching Greek tragedy should enjoy them—they are funded by taxpayers’ money via the Arts & Humanities Research Council and so are rightfully the intellectual property of every single one of us. -