The success of this production belongs mostly to Sas Smith’s fantastic adaptation of the original script. Aristophanes’ ancient Greek comedy features plenty of odd thematic, character and comic choices that, if left preserved, would have ensured a head-scratching audience with no clue of what was happening, no clue of whether to laugh at or with our onstage characters. I wanted to bring to light Aristophanes’ tragi-comic conclusion of the limitations of theatre for affecting real-world change and it was with Sas’s writing, her modernising of jokes, her tying together of loose thematic threads, that we managed to achieve this.

After studying this play as part of my undergraduate degree, I knew I wanted to bring it to the stage in one way or another. The original play works well as a self-contained Greek comedy. However, its jokes are often targeted directly to people and events that only the original Greek audience (or a student more well versed in Classics than me) would understand. Moreover, its structure does not conform to our modern narrative expectations. For instance, one of the principle characters, Xanthius (Sas Smith), features heavily in Act One yet barely speaks in Act Two. In fact, half the characters who feature in Act 1 are unceremoniously shunted from the narrative and we are left to focus on new characters who occupy the stage for all of the second act. Sas’ innovation was to translate the jokes into a new register that would accord with our Durham audience. At one point referencing Polloi’s seminal production last year (where half the actors had not memorised their lines) and tying in characters such as Heracles (Daniel Whiteside), Pandakeautra (Emma Clews) and Plathane (Samantha Dotson) who were originally absent so that they too could enjoy a proper narrative arc. Xanthius in particular received a new ending as it is revealed that he and his master, Dionysus (Nora Harper East), shared tragically doomed feelings for one another.

The play revolves around Dionysus’s attempt to resurrect the dead tragedian, Euripides (Maddy Langdon Morris) to instil morals in the city of Athens and save it from itself. My reading of the play has Dionysus, the god of theatre, acting as an internal director of the play who attempts to tell the story of his heroic journey and promote his art, theatre, as the best way of restoring order to the city. However, it is clear from the chaos of the journey, and his own personal failings, that theatre and art cannot so neatly fulfil this purpose- or any particular visionary purpose and cannot always go exactly to plan. The actors all had plenty of space to improvise on stage (this created some interesting moments, especially with one audience member deciding to gift Dionysus a packet of crisps while on stage) and our set design drew attention to where it was just that- Set! This was done most obviously with the entrance of Charon (Immy Melhuish) who grumpily brings on her set-piece in front of Dionysus and the audience. Everything was meant to have the atmosphere of a play that Dionysus has lost control of and I hope we managed to communicate that effect of (mostly intentional) chaos to our audience.

I could not have achieved this vision without the talent and input of the actors who really took this play in their stride. For special attention I should mention the tragedians Euripides and Aeschylus (Eleanore Steele) who were the focus of Act Two. Their onstage chemistry really helped to communicate the difficulty and futility of arguing for the ‘moral benefits’ of art. That they were able to, without breaking character, debate the merits of a “good cum joke” should be lauded. Aeacus (Sam Ryan), the Corpse (Hillary Yip), and our eponymous Frog (Sofa Barrios) should also be mentioned for their small but important roles that they brought plenty of energy and freshness to. Lastly, this play could not have happened without our Tech crew (Noelle Nunes, India Wilson) who were instrumental for creating a professional looking showing. Also thanks to Caedmon Hall, Hilde Bede, and all the crew who work there, for allowing us to use your venue.

I hope anyone reading this will come to a future Polloi Productions show and have the opportunity to enjoy the massive talent and creativity of this small DST company.

Many Thanks, Alfie Morland.