Greek funny man Euripides’s The Bacchae was first performed in 405BC. The Bacchae of the title are a group of women driven mad by Dionysus, god of (amongst other things) wine and religious ecstasy, who head up into the mountains to worship Dionysus and perform his rites, only to have everything descend into chaos with tragic consequences (drink responsibly, kids!). The Bacchae is one of the great plays. But the greatness of great plays can be lost in the wrong hands.
When you take a very tiny, very full theatre lobby and add a conga line of shrieking, tambourine-wielding women, I get a bad first impression. And if my fellows and I are then taken en masse and closed in a really, really, really smoky auditorium with said ladies, my hackles are well and truly up. This kind of pre show intermingling may have worked better in a larger venue, but Theatro Technis (great venue with lovely staff) was too small for it to be anything other than an uncomfortable invasion of space. Those unfamiliar with the play would be forgiven for thinking a hen party had got lost on its way to Koko and decided to take the revelry into the first well-lit, open building they found. But if there was a party, this wasn’t it.
With the atmosphere of a Sixth Form social and the smoke content of a tobacco field on fire Fourth Monkey’s The Bacchae starts low, and never really gets any higher.
The cast were energetic; the chorus were on stage for the duration of the play and constantly active, only ceasing their kinetics in the final scene. All the actors worked hard enough, but there was just something of the GCSE drama exam about the whole production. Lighting changes seemed to be controlled by flipping switches from bright to SUDDENLY BRIGHTER, and just when the smoke had finally cleared, they fired that puppy up again.
Being a chorus, the bacchae often spoke all together but they failed to stay in unison, so understanding Ranjit Bolt’s translation was a strain as his words were lost, and from all of the actors there were too many significant pauses, Much of the delivery came across as though the cast were simply reciting their lines rather than thinking about them, so emotions were shown but did not seem to be felt. Consequently, I felt nothing.
Fourth Monkey offers young actors a great training opportunity, and the company’s desire to do “nothing other than good”. is an honourable one, but they need to work on it because the £12 ticket price is unjustifiable for the quality of this production. The Bacchae is a great play. Just not this version.
The Bacchae by Fourth Monkey Theatre Company is playing at Theatro Technis until 17 March. For more information and tickets see the Theatro Technis website.