REVIEW OF 2019 ATHENS FESTIVAL PRODUCTION
Ancient Greek Tragedy is never easy to produce successfully and Aeschylus’s Prometheus Bound is no exception. It is a static play – the hero is after all tied to a rock throughout – and it takes imagination and superb directing and acting to bring the piece to life.
The Municipal and Regional Theatre of Patras has done a marvelous production for the 2019 Athens & Epidaurus Festival. Stavros S. Tsakiris directs and dramaturges.
The critical component of the production is Kathryn Hunter as the rebel god Prometheus. Yes, she is Greek and if 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 god considerable mobility. Hunter as Prometheus is angry, defiant, fearless and utterly captivating. She pulls on her chains, defies the other gods and gives a splendid performance. If you never imagined the arch-rebellious god being brilliantly played by a woman you will see bravura acting and you will think of Hunter’s performance forever after.
Tsakiris has done some intelligent dramaturgy to make the play more approachable. He has added an old Narrator who introduces the play and appears throughout as an observer and commentator. Nikitas Tsakiroglou paces around the stage and does a fine job as our companion to the performance.
Prometheus rebels against dictatorship and the abuse of power by Zeus who wants to destroy mortals. He rises against the intended genocide by giving us fire which is in fact the source of civilization. Zeus does what dictators do best: he resorts to torture and sends Prometheus to the wild mountains where he is tied up to a rock where birds will snack on his liver.
The task is performed by a reluctant Hephaestus, the blacksmith of the gods, played sympathetically by Dimitris Piatas. The bad guys, if you will, are Kratos (Alexandros Bourdoumis) and Via (played by four actors – Dimitris Pagonis, Periklis Skordilis, Nikos Bakalis and Antonis Vlassis). The names Kratos and Via mean Might and Violence and they are Zeus’s enforcers.
Hermes (played by three actors – Antigoni Fryda, Kostas Nikouli and Iliana Mavromati) is another enforcer who is sent by Zeus to threaten Prometheus.
Dividing the lines of a single character among several actors can lead to confusion and worse. Tsakiris prevents this from happening by providing subtitles in Greek and English which identify the speakers. It is a splendid way of not only identifying the speakers but also of reducing the static nature to the performance.
Prometheus has friends as well as enforcers from Mount Olympus. 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 the jealous Hera and shares Prometheus’s fate. He discloses significant information to her including prophecies of the future. A fine and tender portrayal by Trikalioty.
I think the hardest part of Greek Tragedy for modern productions is the handling of the Chorus. Tsakiris scores considerable points in his handling. He provides musical ambience for them and their speaking, dancing and singing are handled sensibly. The Chorus Leader (Periklis Vasilopoulos) distinguishes himself and we appreciate the Chorus’s performance throughout. 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 superb performance, the fine acting by the rest of the cast, the satisfactory handling of the Chorus and the excellent pacing, provide an exceptional experience of Ancient Greek tragedy.
Prometheus Bound by Aeschylus in a production by the Municipal and Regional Theatre of Patras, in a translation by Dimitris Dimitriadis was performed on August 30, 2019 at the Odeon of Herodes Atticus, Athens, Greece. www.greekfestival.gr/