The Theatreguide.London Review
In March 2020 the covid-19 epidemic
forced the closure of all British theatres. Some companies adapted
by putting archive recordings of past productions online, others
by streaming new shows. Until things return to normal we review
the experience of watching live theatre onscreen.
Actors Of Dionysus March 2021
Brighton-based Actors Of Dionysus is a touring company specialising in modern adaptations of Greek drama.
This 2011 Lysistrata starts well and has some bright spots along the way. But it loses steam too quickly, and this video recording of a live performance has technical problems that hinder it further.
Aristophanes imagines the women on both sides of a never-ending war uniting in a sex strike to force their husbands to make peace. The central joke is that everyone, male and female, is incredibly horny, and Aristophanes uses very unclassical Greek language to make that clear.
This adaptation by David Stuttard enters into that spirit, with secondary characters named Fanny and Dick, and an opening scene that leaves no entendre undoubled. The first appearance of the Chorus is as a comic music hall double act, and later the increasingly unhappy soldiers bear (as called for in the original) absurdly large sewn-on erections.
But director Mitch Mitchelson's invention and sense of comic style seem to end there. Verbal and visual gags stop being punched up and farcical opportunities are repeatedly missed.
Early hints that the scaffold-like set might be used athletically or acrobatically, to give some energy to the production, are not fulfilled, and too many scenes are just played straight, with no comic overtones at all .
Even the surefire sequence in which a wife tantalises her husband by repeatedly interrupting his attempts at sex with trivia just lies there (as does he), with no comic snap or energy.
The multi-camera video recording is fine, but what appears to be a single microphone creates major problems.
Sound balance is off, so that any music or sound effects completely drown out the actors' voices, but even without that interference too much of the sound is muddied.
In all, as much as a third of the dialogue is unintelligible, a handicap that would cripple an even more comically inventive production.
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