Simon may be from the wrong side of New York, a roughneck who ties his wife Anne to a chair and tapes her mouth for being “critical” of his neighbourhood. But he does have a way with words.
It’s Shakespeare for the Borgen generation – a slick and surveillance-heavy visual on a cool penthouse set where Juliet Stevenson’s splendid dirty dancing Gertrude can shag Claudius on a couch while the Norwegian ambassador paces the corridor.
I’ve not updated my diary of a theatre addict for six weeks now — I was last here on January 31 — since when I’ve seen all of 49 shows, including outings to Newbury, Dartford, Clwyd, Manchester, Bromley and Cardiff, plus a week in New York. I’ve also taken an active part in two more shows by appearing onstage as a contestant in a theatrical re-run of Mr and Mrs with husband (so it was really Mr and Mr, we’re pictured above with host Samuel Holmes) and as part of David Bedella and Friends, his monthly chat show at the St James Studio.
“Cleverness is not wisdom,” warn the Maenad chorus, as king Pentheus determinedly resists the rise of new god Dionysos’ cult in Thebes. Euripides’ Bacchae tells how the young god returns to his mother Semele’s home city to visit her grave, only to wreak terrible vengeance on Thebes’ young and arrogant king Pentheus, who refuses to respect his godhead. The Greek term for divine power, daimon, becomes a touchstone of Anne Carson’s new version for the Almeida: even the spelling of Carson’s title, Bakkhai, proclaims her intention to stay closer to the original texture of Greek. Euripides’ formal structure remains intact, lyrical choral odes alternating with intense scenes, and while Carson’s clear, crisp language (which retains ancient Greek cries of Euoe! Euoe!) mainly inhabits a timeless poetic world, she touches the contemporary from time to time: “Shall we call a cab?” elderly patriarch Cadmos asks the blind seer Teiresias as they set off in Bacchic regalia to join the revels. “It doesn’t sound very Dionysian,” Teiresias ruefully replies.
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