by Euripides, adapted by Rob Kendall
The opening of The Bacchae. Photo by Jerry Delaney
Tue 15 - Sat 19 May 2018 at 7.30pm
Church of the Holy Sepulchre, Sheep Street, Northampton NN1 3NL
CAST & CREW
Dionysus Andy Rowe
Tciredias Tony Janney
Cadmus Owen Warr
Pentheus Sion Grace
Agave April Pardoe
Chorus Leader Dyane Wyman
Chrous Claire Henson, Sheila Jenkin, Angela Mayes, Sherilyn McTique, Lorraine Miller, Flic Roberts
Messenger Victor Guise
Director Rob Kendall
Stage Manager Clare Brittain
Continuity Jill-Rhianna Green
Lighting & Sound Megan Lucas
Costume Masque Theatre / Looking Glass Theatre
Additional costumes Pam Mann
Costume Accessories Clare Brittain
Programme original figure drawing (1929) Chas Kendall
Properties Masque Theatre, Rob Kendall, Robert Vaughan
Photography George Hill
Programme Graham Follett
Box Office Elizabeth Allan, Sue Howes
Front of House & Refreshments Masque Theatre members
Publicity Jen Kenney, Tamsyn Payne
It’s a long time since I studied Greek tragedies, but I remember enough to know that they’re a challenge to modern companies and audiences - the action is stylised and the chorus is quite an alien concept.
And The Bacchae must be one of the trickiest. On top of that, the idea of losing oneself in god-worship to the extent of extreme violence while out of your head is additionally alien to our modern sensibilities.
Rob Kendall set this production in the Roaring Twenties for its decadence and challenge to the traditional role of women, and this worked pretty well, and it led to some lovely frocks, though it perhaps didn’t help the cast really let go (though the latter would be difficult in any period due to the stylisation of the action).
Di Wyman and her female chorus, many of whom I had not seen before, did really well with their unison and shared speeches and their movements (they must have rehearsed really hard), and their ecstatic shouts of “eo” were convincing, if a little serious.
April Pardoe brought a heartbreaking pathos to Agave, the king’s mother who mistakenly tears her son to pieces while in an ecstatic trance, as she is abandoned by the chorus she had been part of and realises what she has done.
I liked Sion Grace as the king, Pentheus, pompous and cross to begin with, and convincingly confused and wavering as he falls under Bacchus’s spell.
Owen Warr and Tony Janney did well as the old men, clearly not losing their minds to Bacchus, but enjoying feeling their limbs move one more time, and Victor Guse was solid as ever, with excellent delivery of the report of the women’s first outbreak of violence.
'A suitable louche-ness'
As for Bacchus himself –surely the hardest part to get right – Andy Rowe had a suitable louche-ness, though perhaps his tuxedo did not help him establish a really dangerous charisma.
Backstage everything seemed to work smoothly in the capable hands of Megan Lucas, Clare Brittain and their team, and I was enchanted by Megan’s arrangement of sunbeams to shine through the smoke as we came in.
It was interesting to watch a play at the Sep in daylight for a change, and it suited this play well.
To sum up, this play was a serious challenge to put on and make work, and Rob and his cast and team are to be congratulated for taking it on.
I've set the play in the late 1920s and early '30s, with costume and manners to match. So expect the tango, quickstep and Charleston.
It was a time when women's suffrage was still an issue and a palpable concern between women and men. This is also a take on the theme underlying the women's (chorus) action in the Bacchae where they want to enjoy their rites as Bacchic followers rather than the perceived rules of law and men.
Thrown into this mix is the anger of the God Dionysus when his divinity is queried by the King Pentheus, who in turn is tricked by Dionysus to spy on the women's Bacchic dance. Not to give too much away but as the play is subtitled a 'tragedy' you can guess it does't all end happily!
The cast is a mixture of existing members (including a stalwart or two) and those new to Masque.
Rehearsing the play: Andy Rowe as Dionysus with the Bacchae
Masque Theatre's production is directed by Masque member Rob Kendall, whose shows for the group include Henry V (2016), The Importance of Being Earnest (2016), The Lion in Winter (2015), Becket (2014), Troilus and Cressida (2014), Margot (2013), Nicholas Nickleby (2012), Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead (2012), Romeo and Juliet (2011) and (2001), Great Expectations (2010) The Cherry Orchard (2010), A Midsummer Night's Dream (2009), Trainspotting (2008), Mother Courage And Her Children (2007), Twelfth Night (2005), Bent (2004), Hell Cab (2004), Murder in the Cathedral (2002), A View From The Bridge (2002), Entertaining Mr Sloane (2000), East (1998), A Streetcar Named Desire (1997) and Antony and Cleopatra (1996)