Back to the Aristophanic roots

Various factors contribute to making Aristophanic comedies resemble revues, apart from the usual alterations in the translation of the ancient text, to make it more contemporary. These include the endless rude comments that come out of the characters’ mouths, the exaggerated body movements that leading actors fill their performance with out of fear that the spectators will not laugh, the stage sets usually bereft of any sense of aesthetics, and a non-Dionysiac approach to the Chorus. All these elements and many more have almost stalled the audience’s interest in Aristophanic comedies, which used to be taken for granted. Nonetheless, the National Theater’s production of Aristophanes’ «Lysistrata,» staged at the Ancient Theater of Epidaurus on July 16 and 17 and at the Oeniadae ancient theater last week, reminded us that the comic element in Aristophanes, his caustic look into our public and private misdoings, and the poetry of his work have no need of such antics. The performance was clean of the usual exaggerations, effective in an honest way, contemporary yet based on traditional values, funny without betraying the play, inventive yet not loud – it cleared the landscape and functioned as a reminder of the firm structure on which Karolos Koun, Alexis Solomos and all their colleagues revived Attic comedy. «Lysistrata» achieved a lot under the direction of Costas Tsianos, with the help of all his colleagues, especially Lydia Koniordou who shone once more, this time as a capricious and light Lysistrata, probably the best Lysistrata since the time of Mary Aroni. Tsianos’s greatest achievement in this performance was the amazing identification of word, music and movement in the many parts of the Chorus. There was not even a musical note, a gesture or a step that did not obey the meaning of the words. All that took place while Greek folk tradition was richly yet discreetly present in the translation (which Tsianos did himself), Christos Leontis’s music, Fokas Evangelinos’s choreography and Rena Georgiadou’s stage sets and costumes. In the performance young actors like Eleni Kastani, Nikos Karathanos – the hilarious Cinesias – Antonis Loudaros, Maria Kadife, Vasso Iatropoulou and others shone alongside older and valuable actors including Nikos Bousdoukos, Yiannis Degaitis, Periklis Karakonstantoglou, Christos Ninis, Alexandra Pantelaki and others. «Lysistrata» will be staged at Larissa’s Alkazar Garden Theater on Wednesday and at the Ancient Theater of Dion on Saturday.