Euripides’ Iphigenia in Aulis | Maria Protopappa

July 2013 | Peiraios 260, Building H, Athens

In spite of everything I can’t help but feel a lot of sympathy for the director of this performance. She has clearly tried to do something irreverent and clever with the text of Iphigenia in Aulis, and it even gets a few laughs from the Greek audience. She is let down by poor execution, and a failure to commit properly to changing the genre. Some moments that could have been great farce are thrown away by the poor timing of the actors, and the unease with which the long sections of text fit to what should be a fast paced physical comedy. Sadly the gags are laboured and come almost like irrelevant additions to the action of their speech. It’s as though they’ve dragged as much humour as possible from the text but then got lazy with the long sections that didn’t easily match their interpretation.

There is a proscenium stage set up in a long warehouse seating maybe a couple of thousand on high raked seating that stretches far back. The actors are all wearing head mics, and there is only one set of speakers on the proscenium. The sound is amateur and pathetic – I’m not sure why this is allowed to happen in Greece. The set looks as though it was designed for a thrust stage, and in the proscenium setting it boxes the actors in even further separated from the audience.

It should be provocative and controversial to do this as a farce, but the directing and acting seem at least fourty years out of date. The moment when Iphigenia makes as though to fellate Achilles should be funny or even poignant, but it just feels like a bit of ‘business’ to fill out the blocking. Perhaps the actors don’t have the timing, or they’re just more embarrassed by it than the audience, but it is completely thrown away.

The chorus, played by two dancers, seem to have been told to do ‘physical theatre’. They contort around while saying the chorus texts – you know, because they’d be boring otherwise. Unfortunately the delivery is monotonous and disconnected from their actions – which are really just bad imitations of ‘physical theatre’ tropes.

If I hadn’t been told that there is a fashion in Greece for playing tragedies as comedies and vice versa I would have been more impressed and at least given them marks for trying.

About Ivor Houlker

Ivor runs Rooftop Productions in Hong Kong, a theatre company known for multidisciplinary contemporary work. He trained as an actor at Rose Bruford College, and completed his MA in performance at Goldsmiths College, London.

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