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The Weekend Neos Kosmos : 17 October 2015
16 THE WEEKEND NEOS KOSMOS | SATURDAY 17 OCTOBER 2015 DIGITAL.NEOSKOSMOS.COM The Bacchae as teen Aaron Orzech’s adaptation of Euripides’ classic play finds modern analogies for ancient debates NIKOS FOTAKIS The Bacchae, Euripides' masterpiece and one of the most challenging plays of the ancient Greek theatre, is featured in this year's Melbourne Festival program. But anyone thinking about a classical production should think again. "We decided early on to go for a contemporary approach," explains Aaron Orzech, co-conceiver of this creative adaptation of Euripides' seminal play, with Adena Jacobs directing. This is the second time in just a few weeks that these two names appear united in relation to an ancient Greek play, as they worked together, Jacobs as director, Orzech as an actor, for the Malthouse Theatre's production of Antigone. "Part of the appeal is that the theatre tradition begins with the Greeks," says Orzech. "When you are faced with the fundamental questions of form and content, of ideas and morality, sometimes you need to go back to the origins". In this case, The Bacchae is the basis for a loose, modern adaptation. "We opted for a collaborative approach, based on improvisation and the ideas born when we started working with the girls." The 'girls' in question are students of St Martins Youth Art Centre - one of the co-producers, along with Jacobs' Fraught Outfit company and Theatre Works. The fact that the cast is from St Martins gives this production a youthful, adolescent energy. Jacobs and Orzech have worked with the youth centre on a previous, criticallyacclaimed, production of Frank Wedekind's On the Bodily Education of Young Girls. "That play had a quiet, poetic quality," says the dramaturg. "We wanted to use the same group of teenage girls in a setting of chaotic energy." Apparently, The Bacchae is the ideal vehicle for that. A play of constant transformations, with a series of challenging themes at its centre - between the rational and the mystical, order and wilderness, the nature of gods and humans - it has for centuries been the spark for fiery debate. "The big theme for us was the point where Pentheus (the King of Thebes opposing Dionysian worship) goes to spy on the Maenads," says Orzech. "A lot of the girls felt connected to that moment of realisation that they're being watched. All women know what it feels to be looked at in an aggressive way; they know what a powerful gaze is. It is a kind of violence. This gave us the chance to talk about what violence is in today's society. "In The Bacchae, Pentheus is slaughtered Dionysus was a god that liberated people ough wine and . Nowadays we e so trapped in a hyperworld that it is lious to drink and dawn. Capitalism asks us to do that.
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