Image credit: Festival Theatre
The Attic Collective is an innovative new theatre company that showcases emerging talent, tackling controversial topics with energy and dry, ironic humour. Their modern retelling of Aristophanes’ comedy Lysistrata exceptionally captures this, creating a balance between bold political commentary and bawdy musical humour that effectively refreshes the Ancient Greek plot.
Lysistrata is set during the Peloponnesian War and describes how a fiery, intelligent woman, Lysistrata, persuaded the women of Greece to go on a sex strike so as to force the men to negotiate peace. This inevitably leads to conflict between all parties, which itself reflects the war between Sparta and Athens, creating a complex multi-layered production that engages with serious subject matter and contrasts it with the humour that arises from the conflict between the men and the women.
The genre of a musical lends itself to the representation of conflict, with the use of chanting and singing illustrating the different communities of women and men. Although the use of music is fitting for the setting of war, the music becomes repetitive as the production progresses; perhaps some development would have been more engaging for the audience, although it is clear that the music is only used as a theatrical device.
The production pays tribute to the original writer Aristophanes as well as the conventions of Ancient Greek comedy through its intensely sexual and often phallic-laden humour, gaining lots of laughs from the audience and ensuring that the story remains light-hearted despite the serious subject matter.
The entire production is drenched in sexuality, from the flirty, erotic dance moves of the actors, to the many inflatable members used to represent the effects of depriving men of sex. Even the set reflects the sensual nature of the show, with a giant golden vagina hanging at the back of the stage.
While the sexual humour of the play generates a lot of hilarious moments – including the amusing anti-climax of a woman preparing her husband for a “special night” on his return from war only to leave him alone in bed – there are times that this compromises the plot. In particular, the end of the play descends into an erotic farce, which, while comical, makes us forget the real action of the plot, making the ending very sudden and unexpected.
The timeless themes of gender politics and the futility of war enable the creative team to bring the play into the 21st century with ease, giving the story particular resonance. Using references to current affairs and political conditions, including the sexist views of Trump and the feminist icon Beyoncé, this production shines light on fundamental ongoing issues. These features in particular highlight the youth and progressive nature of The Attic Collective as a theatre company, which makes them so unique as a company and in turn made Lysistrata so entertaining.