Athens is deeply troubled, the stability of the nation and its inhabitants on the brink, discontent and unease tangible; chaos and mayhem at risk of taking over. Not as you might believe, impressions from a current news bulletin but scenes from Aristophanes' Lysistrata (first staged in 411 BC).
The aod production, at Kingston's Rose Theatre, has been impressively updated by classicist, David Stuttard. Under James Albrecht's direction, the energetic cast of (just) five demonstrate their versatility and passion, as they morph from youthful protesters to Zimmer frame wielding pensioners. The language is ripe and ribald (to the extent that it caused several senior members of the audience to leave early on). In contrast, the group of A' level students, behind me, constantly laughed raucously and hysterically, accompanied by a whispered commentary on the staging of their favourite scenes.
The pace is fast-moving - with never a dull moment - hard to believe around 90 minutes had elapsed, when the performance came to a close. The piece demonstrates how little has changed, in thousands of years, from sexual passion to political posturing and gender power balance.
During the post-show discussion, talking about the intense three-week rehearsal period, director Albrecht spoke of the "struggle to find the level of truth underneath the absurdity". The actors enthused about what fun it was to perform, if frenetic with the rapid-fire change of character and clothing (not to mention application of giant appendages).
Aod's Lysistrata runs at the Rose until Friday 11th November (tickets from a bargain £8). It's the perfect antidote to grey gloomy days - with the proviso that it's not ideal for those with easily-offended sensitivities, or under 16s. There are plans for an extensive tour in 2012 but if you can't wait until then, or won't get to the Rose in time, aod offer a DVD of last year's production.
Credits: Production photos courtesy of aod