REVIEW OF 2019 ATHENS FESTIVAL PRODUCTION
Ancient Greek Tragedy is nevereasy to produce successfully and Aeschylus’s Prometheus Bound isno exception. It is a static play – the hero is after all tied to a rockthroughout – and it takes imagination and superb directing and acting to bringthe piece to life.
The Municipal and Regional Theatre of Patras has done amarvelous production for the 2019 Athens & Epidaurus Festival. Stavros S.Tsakiris directs and dramaturges.
The critical component of theproduction is Kathryn Hunter as the rebel god Prometheus. Yes, she is Greek andif you must know her real name is Aikaterini Hadjipateras. She was born in the United States,trained in England and works there as well.
She is a small, agile and lithe woman with a deep voice.Prometheus is tied to a post but has about ten feet of chain that gives the godconsiderable mobility. Hunter as Prometheus is angry, defiant, fearless andutterly captivating. She pulls on her chains, defies the other gods and gives asplendid performance. If you never imagined the arch-rebellious god beingbrilliantly played by a woman you will see bravura acting and you will think ofHunter’s performance forever after.
Tsakiris hasdone some intelligent dramaturgy to make the play more approachable. He hasadded an old Narrator who introduces the play and appears throughout as anobserver and commentator. Nikitas Tsakiroglou paces around the stage and does afine job as our companion to the performance.
Prometheus rebels against dictatorship and the abuse of powerby Zeus who wants to destroy mortals. He rises against the intended genocide bygiving us fire which is in fact the source of civilization. Zeus does whatdictators do best: he resorts to torture and sends Prometheus to the wildmountains where he is tied up to a rock where birds will snack on his liver.
The task is performed by a reluctant Hephaestus, theblacksmith of the gods, played sympathetically byDimitris Piatas. The bad guys, if you will, are Kratos (Alexandros Bourdoumis)and Via (played by four actors – Dimitris Pagonis, Periklis Skordilis, NikosBakalis and Antonis Vlassis). The names Kratos and Via mean Might and Violenceand they are Zeus’s enforcers.
Hermes (playedby three actors – Antigoni Fryda, Kostas Nikouli and Iliana Mavromati) isanother enforcer who is sent by Zeus to threaten Prometheus.
Dividing the lines of a single character among several actorscan lead to confusion and worse. Tsakiris prevents this from happening byproviding subtitles in Greek and English which identify the speakers. It is asplendid way of not only identifying the speakers but also of reducing thestatic nature to the performance.
Prometheus has friends as well as enforcers from MountOlympus. The beautiful and tragic Io (Peggy Trikalioty), one of Zeus’s mortal loves, is one of them. She has been turned into a cow by thejealous Hera and shares Prometheus’s fate. He discloses significant informationto her including prophecies of the future. A fine and tender portrayal by Trikalioty.
I think the hardest part of Greek Tragedy for modernproductions is the handling of the Chorus. Tsakiris scores considerable pointsin his handling. He provides musical ambience for them and their speaking,dancing and singing are handled sensibly. The Chorus Leader (PeriklisVasilopoulos) distinguishes himself and we appreciate the Chorus’s performancethroughout. The Chorus consists of the daughters of the god Okeanos (Gerasimos Gennaios)but Tsakiris includes men and women in the ensemble.
In the end the production “works”. Hunter’s superbperformance, the fine acting by the rest of the cast, the satisfactory handlingof the Chorus and the excellent pacing, provide an exceptional experience ofAncient Greek tragedy.
Prometheus Bound by Aeschylus in a production by theMunicipal and Regional Theatre of Patras, in a translation by DimitrisDimitriadis was performed on August 30, 2019 at the Odeon of Herodes Atticus, Athens, Greece. www.greekfestival.gr/