This production of Lysistrata by Aristophanes, translated by Alan Sommerstein, and directed by Martin Berry totally rocks!
Staged by Lakeside Arts Nottingham, the Nottingham New Theatre university student cast do themselves proud in bringing bags of energy and clarity to this age old comedy originally penned in 411BC. It is presently updated to a revolutionary punk era where the Acropolis is now a run down night club complete with pink neon lighting on the blink. Lucy Bond’s set design is impressively professional as is the lighting by Richard Statham.
Where aspects of choral or individual verse may have been spoken in past productions, this modernised Lysistrata has specially composed music from composer Laurence Cuthbert and the verse becomes lyrics and expressed in some really cool spunky punky songs by the cast. Well, that is one knob joke out of the way. The proto feminist and sex driven Lysistrata has plenty of knob jokes in verbal and physical form plus innuendo and suggestive language a plenty.
The show is utterly hilarious, rude and bawdy and yet underneath it looks at the deeper question of do these young Greek and Spartan women on stage really have the salvation of the entire Greek nation in their hands? How powerful can they be in reality? Will starving their men of sexual union with them bring the silly macho men to their senses and stop the warring between Greece and Sparta? Could this action spark a serious uprising in the men and bring about stiff reactions that won’t go away until they calm down. It’s hard to know when certain things are pointing in all directions.
The cast has nine women and five men with Lois Baglin in fine form as the heroine Lysistrata. All of the cast work hard in presenting the comedy to a supremely confident and very high polish. Equally they are impressively professional in the sung elements; the choreography and handling the songs with the hand held mikes.
Martin Berry’s direction and choreography is tight and the whole comedy is a joy to watch from this top class and very talented student ensemble. Of equal importance are the opportunities for many other students from various academic disciplines at Nottingham University to be able to contribute in the making of Lysistrata. Many have given up over three weeks of non term time to be involved.
The basic structure of this comedy by Aristophanes is simple. A prologue establishes the mood and the notion of a ‘happy idea’ i.e. to stop the men fighting. The chorus enters and there follows a debate (agon) over the merits of the idea and a decision is reached to try out the scheme. In other words withdraw from sex completely until a resolve is found. A choral ode (parabasis) which directly addresses the audience divides the play into two sections.
A social or political problem is discussed and a line of action advocated. Tension builds. Comedy ensues. The second section of the play shows, through variously connected scenes the results of adopting the ‘happy idea’. The final scene (komos) usually concludes with the reconciliation of all the characters and their exit to a feast or revels. These features of comic structure are sometimes rearranged but are almost always present in comedies from this period. Ad hoc history lesson over.
Lysistrata runs at Lakeside Arts 24-28 April 2018. That’s a very very long while after 411BC.
*Unfortunately the original author Aristophanes couldn’t attend press night so this reviewer drank his after show wine. Thanks for all the laughs over the millennia Aristophanes and the nice wine tonight. Dionysus said to say “XAIPƐƮƐ.”
Reviewer: Phil Lowe.
Photos credit: Mark James.