Thursday, September 19, 2013

Lightning Child: The Barmy Bacchae

Last night, Shakespere’s Globe boasted its first musical in the form of a psychedelic patchwork of Euripides’ Bacchae. Modern stories are interwoven with a camp and crude narrative (by Che Walker and Arthur Darvill) of the ancient Greek tragedy of King Pentheus of Thebes and his punishment by the god Dionysus because of his refusal to worship.

‘Musical’ is not a term that marries well with this performance of discordant songs and tribal calls. Similarly, parts of the performance could do with fine-tuning, with a few actors stumbling over lines, clumsy choreography and an epic running time of 3 hours, which must have taken its toll on the groundlings.

However, the sultry chorus and flamboyant costumes juxtaposed with the serious subplots of heroin addicts, Billie Holiday, and an obsessive violinist, brought home the themes of love, excess and addiction. The gender-confused and fast-paced storytelling suited the nature of the open-air theatre, where catcalls and wolf-whistles from the audience added to the atmosphere. Similarly, strong performances from Clifford Samuel, playing Pentheus, and Philip Cumbus and Harry Hepple as the two druggies, Drax and Shug, kept the audience engaged.

We are told by the narrator to let the play flow over us and leave it to the time spent on our train home to suss out the real meaning. By the time they reach their front door, it is doubtful that the audience are much the wiser, but they have had a hugely entertaining evening complete with gold thongs, cross-dressing, deer carcasses and foul-mouthed revelry.

Where: Shakespeare's Globe Theatre
Price: From £5 for standing ticket
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