Review of the Edinburgh Bacchae

Kali sent me a review of the ‘Bacchae‘ at the Edinburgh Theater Festival. I thought I would share it. I have a particular love of ancient theater revivals. She made me feel like I saw it with her. Kisses, darling.

The Bacchae was amazing. 

Lights dim, hush falls.  Dionysus is lowered from above the stage back to the audience, kilt around his shoulders, arms outstretched in a crucifixion pose, buttocks tensed. 😉   He lowers himself slowly onto the stage, lies on his front and delivers the first line, ‘So Thebes. I’m back! Dionysus, you *do* know me.  Semele was my mother, Zeus my father, Lighting my midwife.   I am, of course, a GOD…….. But if I were to reveal myself to you as I really am,  your. Eyes. Would. Burn. out. from.Their. Sockets’ line.   People were applauding as he was lowered to the stage, before he even uttered a line!  He was a Dionysus that straight men would want to bend over, absolutely adorable, macho but not overbearing, swaggering.  You can see why the Bacchae worship him in his rightful place, as.a GOD. 😉  When he was childishly argumentative, he stomped his little bratty feet demanding that he was worshiped he was forgivable because he was an abandoned child.   When he was convincing Pentheus  (played superbly as a Glasgow-hard man -crime-lordy type.) to dress in womens clothing he was seductive but still masculine, for all the wig and skirt/kilt – but confusing, you didn’t know whether you wanted him to slap your arse ( as he did to the bacchae on numerous occasions as they ran giggling away from him) or strap one on and tie him down…   

Production notes.  Fine effects, from the poppies falling on Semeles grave ( from the sky, they fell like arrows and stuck to the stage in some theatrical jiggery pokery that i can’t quite get my head around.) There were two scaffolding type pipes on the all-white set on a curving wall to the left of the stage.  The Bacchae would stand on them every so often   – when the Bacchae set fire to the palace on Dionysus’ behest the scaffolding reveals itself to be a gas pipe and flames leap up fifteen feet or so.  You could feel the heat from the upper circle. 

There was a very slight gully in the stage that wine ran down as the bacchae skipped over it ( god, women *drink* it!) At the end when he reveals himself as a god to Agave he does so in front of a lowered square of 100 floodlights that increase in heat and intensity, then he slips onmto stage between them ,  so that the audience cannot gaze upon him – he’s so strongly backlit ( like the reveal of the alien in close encounters of the third kind’, when the door finally opens…)

The Bacchae themselves – one of the ones with more to sing than the others ( theres around three or four ‘lead’ bacchae out of ten)  had one of the most horrible voices it has ever been my misfortune to see in (musical) Theatre.  I know we refer to ‘ the scream,’  in the Baccahe. I see no reason why we have to hear it every time she opened her mouth. The costuming was superb ( they are all in various tones of red) apart from the two larger Bacchae who I think wardrobe just went ‘oh. God.’ at and  dresseed in red sparkly mu-muus.   Lazy costuming – they deserved better.

Pentheus – fabulous.  When he dressed in his sisters clothes to go up to the mountain to spy on the women he came onto the stage shy then grew in confidence until he tentatively grabbed Dionysus’ ‘staff’, then became beautifully effeminate ( a bit mincy, but hey) and sang a fabulous torch song about ‘going to the mountain and dancing with the women who will be like little birds!’  the gown was ill -fitting and slipped from his shoulders at the merest twitch to reveal his manly breast. Agave – terrible in that it was so difficult to look at her because she was so wonderful!  She looked up at the sky so proud at ripping the head from a mountain lion and then realised what she had done.  A fine fine actress.

The company as a whole were lovely because it was very much an ensemble piece.  Pentheus got the biggest applause for his ‘drag’ scene and Dionysus seemed delighted.  At the end a feather had dropped from one of the bacchaes dresses- Pentheus picked it up and handed it to Dionysus as the curtain called. 

Sorry this is so long – I do want you to feel like you saw it too!

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