Owen Sparkes gives his thoughts on the preview performance of DUCT and Green Door’s collaboration.
The Bacchae, a joint venture of Green Door and DUCT, paints a bleak image of a society at war with itself, and this production tries to meet the demands of presenting this world. Technically impressive, clearly a lot of passion has gone into this play, and the cast and creative team must be commended for this. Unfortunately, at places the production failed to hit the mark and left me confused, detracting from the key ideas that I believe the team were trying to put forward. Overall however, the performance was a visually satisfying one to watch, and a number of performers absolutely shone on stage.
The creative team must be congratulated for the staging, which was effective in setting the Dionysian ethics that underpin the play. Having the set lined with tonnes of empty bottles of alcohol (someone must have had a fun night), high heels, and fairy lights was reminiscent of a university student’s bedroom, and this was a successful way of relating the ancient Greek text to DST and the production’s audience. At some points this detracted from the performance, however; for example, having flashing fairy lights in the background during a monologue about the bloody murder of the king of Thebes seemed erroneous. Despite this, the use of lighting was applied perfectly to accentuate the more dramatic moments of the play, and all the creative team should be proud of the technical successes of the production.
Any translated text is going to present difficulties for actors, and the translation of The Bacchae was subject to such issues; the dialogue was clunky. Generally, the performers were successful in getting around this, but unfortunately the two male leads struggled to meet such demands. Jason Dhoray as Dionysus and Tom Jacobs and Pentheus did not provide the characterisation required; it would be good to see larger performances from them, and I recommend that they relish the darker moments of the text more. However, I enjoyed the scenes that they had together, which expressed just how different their two characters were and led to some nice moments. It would be great to see them apply the bigger sides to their characters in scenes in which they are alone. However, the Bacchants must be congratulated for their fantastic ensemble-work, and Christie Clark for directing this group in the Dionysiac way required. The energy that the Bacchants provided when on stage was remarkable; it would be good to see them letting go even more – particularly at the beginning of the play – but every one of them should be pleased with their performance.
The pay-off moment of the play for me was the final scene’s dialogue between James Cumming’s Kadmos and Honor Halford-MacLeod’s Agave. The devastation, horror and familial love that was presented in this part of the performance was genuinely remarkable, and both actors should be incredibly proud of what they presented on stage. Halford-MacLeod’s energetic insanity was met excellently by Cumming’s sombre and heart-broken expression. Although it would have been nice to see Halford-MacLeod bring the character down at some points, her performance as the both broken mother and daughter was excellent, and Cumming’s characterisation was near-perfection. The play was made by this final scene, and I recommend you go to watch it for these performances if nothing else.
Overall, the sheer amount of energy and hard work that clearly went into this production is evident, and for this The Bacchae deserves congratulations.
The Bacchae will be playing in the Cassidy Quad at St Chad’s College at 7.30pm from the 24th to the 26th November.