Fancy taking the stage at the Lyceum?
- Alex Johnston
- 19 May 2016
Lyceum calls for women aged 16–26 to be the Chorus in Aeschylus's The Suppliant Women – and more
Greek tragedy: we all think we know what it means. There's usually sex and violence. Somebody's done A Bad Thing, typically involving Sleeping With Someone They Shouldn't Have, and the Forces of Something Or Other conspire to make sure that the Somebody gets inexorably and brutally punished for it. There's usually collateral damage, in the form of dead family members. There will generally be a scene in which the Somebody does some serious Lamenting, usually before being killed.
Well, it's more complicated than that. The above pretty much describes the basic set-up of Sophocles' Oedipus the King, except that Oedipus doesn't die (not in that play, anyway.) In the same playwright's Antigone, the titular character does die, but nobody's been sleeping with anyone, and she's not the one who gets the most brutal punishment or does the bitterest lamenting (that would be Creon). Weirdest of all, in Aeschylus's trilogy Oresteia you'll find all of the above elements, except that the whole thing has a happy ending. Sometimes, Greek tragedy is hardly tragic at all.
Aeschylus's Hiketides, usually translated as The Suppliants and in David Greig's upcoming version for the Lyceum as The Suppliant Women, is different again. For a start, the sex and violence haven't happened yet: the play is about a group of young women, the Danaids (daughters of Danus, fact fans), fleeing from impending forced marriage to their Egyptian cousins. All Greek tragedies have a Chorus, whose role is usually to comment on what's going on, but in this one, the Chorus is also the Protagonist in that they drive the action by turning up at Argos and begging for protection from the pursuing Egyptians.
Given such a many-headed cast, the show's director Ramin Gray is outsourcing the protagonist by calling for women aged from 16–26 to play the Danaids. This is exactly in keeping with how these plays were originally staged. Back in the fifth century BC, when Greek drama spectacularly rose and fell in Athens, only a few roles in a tragedy were played by professional actors. The Chorus would be played by members of the local community, and if you fit the age and sex criteria and are available to rehearse and perform between August and October 2016, you might contact them at firstname.lastname@example.org (using THE SUPPLIANT WOMEN as the subject line) to register your interest.
If you're not a woman aged 16–26 and are green with jealousy, you might still find yourself on the Lyceum stage this season. In June 2017, the theatre will be staging Peter Handke's The Hour We Knew Nothing Of Each Other, a drama with over 400 performers, and again, they're not casting it the usual way. Handke is one of the most contrarian of a highly contrarian generation of Austrian writers: he worked with Wim Wenders back in the day, co-writing the much-loved arthouse romance Wings of Desire, but he also wrote a classic piece of late 60s confrontational avant-theatre, Insulting the Audience, and became notorious in the 90s for expressing support for Serbia in the aftermath of the Yugoslav War, even making a speech at Slobodan Milosevic's funeral in 2006.
The Hour … is a good deal less controversial, containing as it does no dialogue at all. But it does need a lot of performers, and director Wils Wilson invites you to register your interest in being one of them by emailing email@example.com with THE HOUR WE KNEW NOTHING OF EACH OTHER as the subject line.
The Suppliant Women is at the Lyceum from 1–15 Oct 2016. The Hour We Knew Nothing Of Each Other is at the Lyceum in June 2017.