Writer: David Grieg, after Aeschylus
Director: Ramin Gray
Reviewer: Ciarán Leinster
Any modern update of any Classical text needs something to bridge the gap in time, and make it interesting and vibrant to audiences. The Suppliant Women does this, and more, making it an enchanting opening to the Dublin Theatre Festival.
This is the first of a trilogy, the latter two of which have been lost, and concerns a boat of women escaping from Egypt to Greece, begging for protection. They are led by their “father”, played by Omar Ebrahim, who manages to be protective and daring at once. They secure their safety in Argos, but are pressured by the locals into embracing a life of love and sex. The obvious cultural relevance, to both Irish and international issues, is directed at, but not too heavily.
The play is delivered almost entirely in verse, with musical accompaniment from Callum Armstrong and Ben Burton, playing aulos and percussion, respectively. Their music, combined with the haunting chanting and signing of the chorus, produces a supernatural effect, seamlessly creating a mystical atmosphere to go with the themes.
The play is told mostly through the chorus, whose co-ordination, both physically and vocally, is superb, especially given their status as amateurs, as we are informed by Ebrahim in the opening libation ceremony. They are led by Gemma May, who is authoritative yet vulnerable throughout.
While the music was the defining feature of the play, it sometimes became too loud, obscuring what was being said on stage. Given that my seat was in the first few rows, this reviewer can only imagine this was a far greater problem for many others.
However, even with this difficulty, The Suppliant Women is an extremely enjoyable piece of work, showcasing the full range of talents of everyone involved. That so much of the chorus were amateurs relatively new to acting made the experience all the more impressive.
Run until 1 October 2017 | Image: Stephen Cumiskey