Reviewed by Sue Willetts
Institute for Classical Studies
In this selection from Lucian's satirical dialogues, 'Lucian' himself, played by Russell Shone, introduces his themes (or rather targets), and during the course of four sets of Dialogues we observe the antics of the traditional gods and of human behaviour.
Hermes (Russell Shone) explains to Poseidon (Emma Stafford) that Zeus has just given birth. Click the image for a wider perspective on the scene.
No doubt some members of the audience were acquainted with the texts, but no previous knowledge of Lucian or of myth was assumed or needed to enjoy this production. The company used the limited stage area to good effect, and managed with a few props and some clever and amusing costumes to create a range of settings from Mount Olympus to the Underworld. They were helped in this effort by the ingenious use of slides to to provide a suitable backdrop or to illustrate the action. In the Dialogue of the West and South Winds, the stages of the story of Europa and the Bull were echoed with illustrations from vase paintings and mosaics. These projections fit very smoothly into the production.
A view of Mount Olympus provided the setting for the conversation between Zeus and Hera in the Dialogue of the Gods. Zeus was being taken to task by his wife over his latest acquisition, the goat- herd Ganymede. Hera, played very well by Clare Woods, remained cool and controlled in her entirely justified anger. Zeus' creepy charm, like his purple-lined cloak, was reminiscent of Dracula. His success at seducing the innocent Ganymede (excellent acting from Anna Britten) makes an amusing mockery of all-too-human divine foibles.
The Dialogue of the Sea-Gods continues the anthropomorphic theme: we witnessed Doris (Clare Woods) deriding Galatea (Emma Stafford)for her choice of the one-eyed Polyphemus as a boyfriend. Galatea tries to defend herself from Doris' remorseless attack, rendered in a superb American accent.
To get both sides of this conversation, click the image.
The Dialogue of the Prostitutes offers four delightful encounters. A mother uses all the arguments she can think of to persuade her daughter Corinna to take up a career as a prostitute. Later on, Mousarion's mother--a Lancastrian housewife complete with curlers--complains of her daughter's failure as a courtesan in a spate of garden-fence gossip.
Mousarion's mother (Annie Britten). To see the erring daughter (Clare Woods) as well, click on the image.
The Dialogues of the Dead included Hermes and Charon discussing shore-leave and making reference to the ferry-terminal. In addition to the effective use of slides, there was a debate between Solon and Croesus in which Solon's voice was that of Richard Sorabji, director of the Institute of Classical Studies, recorded and broadcast to make the production a truly multimedia event.
The actors, all experienced performers, succeeded in portraying a total of twenty-two characters in a little under 90 minutes, and in educating as well as entertaining. This production was proof that Lucian's dialogues *can* be used as performance texts, and with luck Chloe Productions will make them more widely known to students at school and college.
Sue Willetts ICS
(Sue Willetts is a librarian at the Institute of Classical Studies.)