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Drama festival presents stories as old as time.

If you know your Aristophanes from your Aeschylus, skip ahead. But if you're not too sure about ancient Greek drama, here's the lowdown. There are five major playwrights (Aeschylus, Sophocles, Euripides, Aristophanes and Menander), three dramatic genres (tragedy, comedy and satire) and one main location from which it all sprang: Athens. Flourishing from roughly 700BC, this elegant style of drama has stood the test of time, influencing pretty much all forms of western theatre down the centuries -- including off-stage: metal tokens have since become tickets; applauding still denotes approval! Even our word for those who tread the boards comes from the period: Thespis being, apparently, the first recorded actor in Greek drama. And the plays of ancient Greece, over two millennia later, are still just as significant.

"Ancient Greek drama, which constitutes the basis of the contemporary European drama and an element of world cultural heritage, has direct relevance to today's world," suggest the organisers of the International Festival of Ancient Greek Drama, which takes place throughout July at the Paphos Ancient Odeon, Curium and the Skali Amphitheatre. And there must be some truth to the statement because over the last three decades no fewer than 21 of these festivals have taken place featuring theatre groups from countries as diverse as Bulgaria, China, Latvia, Portugal, America, and Spain.

Take for example Euripides' Trojan Women, a play which debuted at the annual Great Dionysia festival in Athens in 415 BC. Today's iteration, which comes to us courtesy of Theatro Ena and is directed and adapted by Andreas Christodoulides, is described as the "lamentation of women, mothers, spouses, sisters, revealing the universal dimensions of human pain in a story that is constantly repeated." And the central theme of the horror of war is just as relevant in this day and age as it was when the playwright, most probably inspired by the capture and subsequent slaughter and subjugation of the populace of the island of Melos during the Peloponnesian War, penned the plot.

Then we've got Agamemnon by Aeschylus, a play which wrestles with the concept of fate. Responsibility and accountability are central questions in the play; questions posed once again in this festival adaption of the first in the Oresteia trilogy, translated by Yorgos Blanas, directed by Cezaris GrauE"inis, and brought to life by a group consisting of Stefi Productions, Roads And Oranges Films, the Municipal And Regional Theatre Of Kozani, and the Municipal and Regional Theatre Of Veria.

While Euripides' Alcestis (presented by the Fresh Target Theatre Ensemble of Cyprus and directed by Paris Erotokritou) and Medea (brought to us by Romania's Spectrum Theatre, and directed by Viola TE[micro]rE[micro]k) both feature female protagonists, the first deals with a woman of exemplary virtue and the latter a woman of horrible vice. But both plays have a bearing on the world of today (especially in what has been dubbed The Year of the Woman!) with our heroines disrupting the patriarchal deal-making of their menfolk: Alcestis as she volunteers to take her husband's place in the underworld; Medea fighting for revenge in an unjust world.

Another woman, Electra, is the subject of Georgia's Rustaveli Theatre performance. The main character in two Greek tragedies, this is Sophocles' version, originally written about 400BC: "A story as old as time and as shocking as today's headlines," suggest organisers. Focusing once more on women trapped in a patriarchal system, and the complex family and gender dynamics relevant to today's world, the festival adaption is billed as "ancient writing brought alive."

Which leaves us with the last of the festival productions: Euripides' Orestes from the National Theatre of Northern Greece and directed by Yannis Anastasakis.

Detailing the events following the murder of Clytemnestra, this is a play which "leads one to question why gods (or political leaders) would use war as an instrument for a greater good and, this being the case, why these gods/leaders are worthy of our admiration and praise…"

A question worth asking on a daily basis, perhaps! Today, we can appreciate these age-old plays for their adaptions, writing, acting…. But ultimately, the playwrights wanted to get us thinking about the Big Issues. And, this year, the Festival of Ancient Greek Drama is sure to do just that…

International Festival of Ancient Greek Drama

Between July 1 and July 30 at various locations. Tickets are e1/410 (e1/45 for concessions). For the full programme and ticket details, visit or call 70002414

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Publication:Cyprus Mail (Cyprus)
Geographic Code:4EUGR
Date:Jun 26, 2018
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