Lots of plays when you hear about them, I go “ohh that sounds like a good/clever idea”, then you go and see it and it’s a huge let down.
Welcome to Thebes, sounded like a great idea, a Greek play transposed to the 21st Century and a worn torn African state. So as I sat down in the National looking at Tim Hatley’s splendid set, would this be an Athenian thumbs up or down for me?
Moira Buffini I feel not only managed to make this work, but exceeded my expectations. Apart from the Greek names of the characters this was a play very much of the 21st Century and ideally situated in a civil war-torn African state, desperately seeking to get out of the mess and brutality it had descended into. I’ve yet to do my module in Greek Theatre, but had a taste of it at the last study weekend and thoroughly enjoyed this modern take on the classic myths.
I was particularly struck by the amount of comedy Buffini brought to the play, some witty deliberate nods to Greek mythology, others just comedic in themselves. I thought the “turn off your mobile phones” at the beginning was a great way of starting the play.
For a Greek play the body count was surprising low, I thought it was better that the violence at Thebes was mainly alluded to rather than graphically displayed on stage.
The large cast was superb, special mention must go to Kedar Williams-Stirling who played the child soldier and gave us a brief glimpse into the brutality and fear they face. Buffini cleverly recreated the Greek Chorus too which was a superb.
The politics are just as relevant now as then and Moira Buffini gave it a pertinence with the USA’s foreign policy being mirrored in the Athenian “First Citizen” Theseus.
I did feel the First Act dragged a little, but it certainly upped the pace after the interval and in many ways Buffini had to take her time to set the scene in the First Act in order to let it rip along in the Second Act.
There was lots of clever and profound dialogue, alas I can’t remember it word for word, I look forward to getting the script and reading it and noting down the poignant lines.
So if you fancy going Greek, or seeing a good modern play, cleverly based on the ancient, I highly recommend this.