The Suppliant Woman – Gaiety Theatre – DTF Review
The original version of this text was written by Greek playwright Aeschylus about 2,500 years ago. This is the first part of a triolgy which tells the story of a group of women. The other two parts of the triolgy have been lost through the ages and only this story remains. This new version of the text was written by Scottish playwright David Greig.
The play is about 50 daughters of Danaus who travel across the mediterranean sea to flee forced marriages to their Egyptian cousins. These women arrive in Argos, in Greece, carrying only the clothes on their backs and their suppliant branches and throw themselves at the mercy of the local king Pelasgus, who will decide their faith.
The most striking thing about this production is that the chorus is largely made up of volunteer actors, who applied to an open call earlier this year. The applications were made through the Dublin Theatre Festival website with the ad offering people the chance to be on the Gaiety stage for the first time! This cast of newcomers is augmented by a number of speaking roles by professional actors.
The stage of the Gaiety is bare with the walls exposed. Only tiles on the floor alter its nude state. The opening scene allows the performers to emerge via a roller shutter door at the very back of the stage in dramatic fashion.
Much has been made of the comparison with modern day migrants, with constant images on television of Syrian refugees fleeing their country. While the comparison is there, the story remains true to the original text and the only real point is how little has changed in the plight of a refugee in the intervening years.
While you may expect something of a sedate production with a lot of text, this piece is anything but. It instead focuses on the lyricism of the language and transforms it into a musical happening. There are two musicians involved, playing a variety of percussion and eastern sounding wind instruments. They drive the beat and allow the movement to stay in sync. The voices of the chorus join together to form a collective, at times closer to the noise of football supporters. There is something feral or tribal about this chorus of women. They move in unison and pound, chant and dance with an impressive degree of choreography. At times, the complexity of the language is almost lost and you simply enjoy the power of the group. The degree of rehersal involved to get amateur performers to this level is frightening. You feel swept along in the wave of emotion and passion they radiate in this joyous happening.
Cast and Creative Team
Written by Aeschylus in a new version by David Greig
Directed by Ramin Gray
Composed by John Browne
Choreography: Sasha Milavic Davies
Cast includes: Oscar Batterham, Omar Ebrahim, Gemma May, Callum Armstrong and Ben Burton
Set and Costume Design: Lizzie Clachan
Lighting Design: Charles Balfour