GIVE ME A 'B' FOR BAKKHAI (A NEW VERSION BY ANNE CARSON)
Ben Whishaw as Dionysos
O Thebes! garland yourself
in all the green there is-
wet sap green,
new grape green,
green of youth and green of
green of mint and green of
green of tea leaves, oak and pine,
green of washed needles
and early rain,
green of weed and green of oceans,
green of bottles, ferns and apples,
green of dawn-soaked dew and
slender green of roots,
green fresh out of pools,
green slipped under fools,
green of the green fuse,
green of the honeyed muse,
green of the rough caress of ritual,
green undaunted by reason
green of jealous joy,
green of the secret holy violence
of the thyrsos,
green of the sacred iridescence
of the dance-
and let all the land of Thebes dance!
with Dionysos leading,
to the mountains!
(Anne carson, Bakkhai)
When you read Bakkhai you deepen into human's nature, you recognise the anger of the God, the miserable decisions of the king...Then you feel that Euripides was not that far away from men's behaviour. It's the struggle between the conscious and the unconscious: human degradation until its last consequences.
Then you feel the chorus in its lines. You hear the sound of their voices, the vibration of their togas, the dance, the joy, the fear, while shouting Bakkhai. And there you are, sitting on your couch reading a classic. But...the good thing comes when you are given a chance to watch a classic converted into a contemporary production in London; there begins the magic trick!!!
Referring to the production I would say, it's impeccable. Nothing out of place, though the setting is not the Epidaurus Theatre and the characters don't look like the ancient men in Greece. And why? Because it's something contemporary, something that will be able to touch the audience from the 21st century. The story is told in all senses and there is not a possibility of misunderstanding. As I said before, everything in its right place.
The three main characters, Ben Whishaw (as Dionysus, the God), Bertie Carvel (as Pentheus, the King) and Kevin Harvey (as Cadmo, the old founder of Thebes) are just stunning, specially in their bodies and their voices. The way they move on stage, their confidence as playing their characters make one lean forward the seat.
Kevin Harvey can play an old man without hesitating, all his body is committed, his voice is even better, his shaking doens't let you go away from the story. He's a real old man because he's playing the truth on stage. Nothing is fake on his manners, his movements, even his feelings. Despite not being an old man he does it with such a facility that encourages an actor in progress (in this case actress like me) to be working all the time non-stop.
Bertie Carvel is another thing, in the good way I mean. As Pentheus, the King, he plays amazingly, but what about Pentheus dressed up as a woman? OMG, he's even better. He seems to like it, to enjoy the fact of being a woman as probably Pentheus did.
Ben Whishaw is Ben Whishaw, I mean, how could I make a critic on such a well-known actor? It wouldn't be fair. He's good, quite good in fact. His movements made me think of the asexual angels. As a God it could be, but we know that Greek Gods were created as promiscuous creatures. I dare to say that Ben Whishaw was fantastic but I would choose the other two in this production.
And what to say about the chorus? It's impossible to do such a great job. I know more or less how a chorus works as I've been doing a little bit of training in that and it's such a hard work...it requires practise and practise and more practise and even practising there is no way to do something decent. However these ten women were.....I have no words to describe it!!! I'd say SUPERB. I never have favourites in a chorus but the one I couldn't stop staring at was Amiera Darwish, as I could see a truly commitment in every movement, every word she said.
If you have the opportunity to go and watch it, don't lose it; it's worth it. The main problem could be the price, as it's £38. However if you are students you can get a half price ticket, so make sure you have your student card with you. In my case I had to pay £38 as all the tickets for students were sold out, but I'll never regret it!!!
JUST LET THE PLANE TAKE OFF, AND LET IT FLY HIGH