by Euripides new adaptation by Rosanna Lowe.
Northampton Chronicle & Echo Press Rooms Earl Street NN1 3HR In rep to 30 June 2012.
7.45pm 6-8, 11, 12, 16, 20-22, 25, 26, 30 June.
3pm 9, 14, 23, 28 June.
Audio-described 11 June.
BSL Signed 12 June.
Runs 1hr 40min No interval.
TICKETS: 01604 624811.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 1 June.
Furious energy finds final focus in human feelings.
Summer hasn’t lacked theatrical stimulation since Laurie Sansom came to Northampton. This year his three-part ‘Festival of Chaos’ opens with Lorca in repertoire with the sine qua non of theatrical chaos, Euripides’ Bacchae.
Twelfth Night’s Malvolio and Feste, dutiful steward and irresponsible joker respectively, pale by comparison with Euripides’ opposites, as does Malvolio’s fate when he loosens his emotional stays. King Pentheus is determined to root out the irrationality infesting his city’s women. Only gradually does he realise (an element unfocused here) that the Dionysiac supporter he talks to is Dionysus himself.
The seductive demigod talks Pentheus into adopting a disguise to spy on the bacchic women’s own festival of chaos. In doing so, the king steps from his comfort zone of male order and logical rule, dressing and made-up like one of the worshippers. And he’s no match for a god. Not only can Dionysus burst from prison. He can infect his followers’ minds so they turn on Pentheus and, thinking him a wild beast, tear him apart.
There’s nothing Greek or festive about the cold industrial space of the local paper’s old printing works where performances take place. Bacchic women prowl and overpower the security guard, making this seem more terrorist raid, or heist, than a world where the bacchae seek isolation to pursue their rites; yet it shows the irrational taking possession in the world.
Nor do these energetic, loud-singing women (individualised more in the cast-list than on stage) seem a riotous assembly; more a well-drilled smiling chorus-line from some upbeat musical. It’s left to the encounter between Liam Bergin’s formal Pentheus, and Ery Mzaramba’s tattooed Dionysus (pointing-out that a god never reveals all, then stripping Pentheus bare), to provide dramatic point. Mzaramba cunningly seduces us too at the start, in his theatre sweat-shirt, apparently making opening announcements before revealing his character.
But the finest comes last as Kathryn Pogson’s Agave races on triumphant in having killed the beast, before settling into the grief of realising whose is the bloody head she holds. She, and Jim Bywater’s considered Cadmus, are the most moving people in the production.
Tiresias: Robert Benfield.
Pentheus: Liam Bergin.
The Possessed: Donna Berlin.
Cadmus: Jim Bywater.
Head of Security: Philip Cairns.
The Diva: Alicia Davies.
The Forsaken: Rosie Ede.
The Bride: Seline Hizli.
Dionysus: Ery Mzaramba.
Agave: Kathryn Pogson.
The Hacktivist: Amanda Wilkin.
News Presenter: Daniel Betts.
Reporter: Dorothy Atkinson.
Director: Laurie Sansom.
Lighting: Philip Gladwell.
Sound: Christopher Shutt.
Composer: Dougal Irvine.
Musical Director: Thomas J Indge.
Film: Scott Radnor.
Choreographer/Associate director: Neil Bettles.
Assistant director: Helen Barnett.
Assistant designer: Sara Polonghini.