After watching PiTV’s Backstage Pass for Bacchae, and taking a quick glance at the Sparknotes summary of the play, I was excited to see the Classics Society’s interpretation of this Euripidean tragedy.
The opening prologue by Dionysus, the god in human form played by Pavlos Christodoulou, quickly summarises the background to the plot (making my Sparknotes preparation somewhat redundant!). This means the audience is instantly immersed in the storyline, and it’s accompanied by eerie music that continues, often played live, throughout the tragedy. This music is performed excellently and very subtly; only occasionally does it overpower the characters who have slightly less projected voices.
The play continues with the introduction of the Maenads, a group of about eleven actresses who manage to stay completely in sync in both their dancing and their dialogue. This has clearly been rehearsed repeatedly in order to achieve such accuracy but the practice has not taken any passion away from these performers. Even when not at the forefront of the action, the facial expressions and gestures of the Maenads are convincing and well executed.
Many performances stood out; the transformation of Adam Woolley from the arrogant, self-confident Pentheus to the weaker, effeminate version of the same character is excellent, as is Christodoulou’s performance, and particularly his powerful microtonal singing. One especially encapsulating performance is that of Charlotte Holtum and her exciting, dramatic scenes as Agave, Pentheus’ mother.
It is not only the acting that is commendable but, as mentioned above, the music – and particularly the inclusion of the musicians in the action – was carried out seamlessly. Often, it is the seemingly small things that make a difference: the various colours of lighting, the mist that hangs in the air and the carefully designed costumes help to create the perfect atmosphere in which the tragedy can unfold.
Overall, the play is easier to understand than I initially thought it would be and, although a few scenes could do with a slightly faster pace, it is a captivating play that I would recommend anyone to see. It is a very professional performance, both technically and dramatically, and I would grab a ticket while you can!
Remaining performance times:
Wednesday 11 February at 2:30pm
Wednesday 11 February at 7:30pm
Thursday 12 February at 2:30pm
Thursday 12 February at 7:30pm
Image credits: Dante Kim