THE BACCHAE by Euripides

YAIR SHERMAN ENSEMBLE – ISRAEL

The award-winning Israeli director, Yair Sherman, presents Euripides’ Bacchae in a contemporary reading of the play, an exciting directing approach and a highly aesthetic artistic result, in the production that gave him the “Golden Porcupine – Director of the Year”, for 2016.

In Bacchae, one of the most complete and enigmatic plays of world dramaturgy, Dionysus is starring as a humanized god, penetrating as a new force to enforce his own worship. In a game of couplings and transformations, myth and history meet the poetic rebirth, while unexpectedly the tragic, the dramatic and the theatrical element coexist. God Dionysus abolishes the boundaries between people, social order, gender, age, and even the difference between human and divine qualities. The city that denies his existence will experience the power and dominance of God through a mysterious, dark and bloody nightmare.

▪ With Greek and English surtitles

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 Under the auspices of the Embassy of the State of Israel in the Republic of Cyprus

 

Summary

Bacchae, one of the most complete and enigmatic plays of world dramaturgy, Dionysus appears as a humanised god, penetrating as a new force to enforce his own worship.

In the city of Thebes, which is governed by the young and adored king Pentheus, a mysterious stranger appears, claiming to be the messenger of an unfamiliar god – Dionysus. Pentheus, the young king who has just risen to power, refuses to accept the Dionysian ritual and divinity.

The charismatic stranger lures the women of the city, led by Agave, the Κing’s mother, to the insanity of nature rituals, insane dances, massive orgies and free love. The inevitable conflict between the law and these rituals becomes a personal, bitter conflict between the two leaders, ending with a horrifying, unpredictable and inconceivable murder, bringing destruction to the house of Cadmus.

Director’s note

Bacchae is the last play by Euripides. During the writing of the play, the famous playwright was in exile, staying at the court of the semi-barbaric Macedonian king Archelaus, after being forced to leave Athens. A short time after arriving in Macedonia, Euripides died, bitter and alone, without having seen his last play being performed in the Dionysus amphitheater in his home-city of Athens. Following his death, the young Euripides (the poet’s son or nephew) played Bacchae in the Athens Dionysia and won the first place in the tragedy contest (a contest in which the judges never gave much grace to Euripides Sr., due to his controversial opinions on the Peloponnesian war).

It is usually said that Bacchae is the greatest masterpiece by Euripides, and that it sealed the Athenian golden age. Two years after it was written, Athens was struck a final blow by Sparta, during the Peloponnesian war, and never regained its greatness. Euripides’s tragedy may be considered, in that manner, a relevant work for its time, since it foretells the events waiting to unfold. In a time perspective, this play becomes an apocalyptic vision of a bitter playwright, exiled in his final days, foretelling the end of the city which cast him out.

My idea of working on an ancient Greek drama today is to bring a contemporary interpretation to the classic writings. I always find a way to make the play personal- since the core is relevant; it touches my life today in a deep personal level. All ancient Greek dramas are extremely political, and through them I am able to express both political and personal questions that have no one answer but many different perspectives on what is true or false.

As long as the drama exists there will always be a reason for new adaptations. It is always exciting to see different interpretations of the same story in new and contemporary versions. One can only hope to bring new life into the old and magnificent texts of ancient Greek drama.

The first thing I look for when I start to work on a new play is a string that ties it all together. Like a spinal cord, or the beating heart of the drama.

In the case of The Bacchae it is obvious that the story follows Dionysus’s revenge. The challenge was to understand what it is for, and how does it has anything to do with me in a deeper, more existential aspect.

Reading more about the myth, I found my way discovering more about Euripides’s life. I have come to realise that there are a lot of similarities between Dionysus and him. Both are artists, rebels, not recognised in their own time, funny and perhaps violent. Strangely so, it reminded me a bit of myself.

I have decided to make an assumption that Euripides chose to use the myth of Dionysus in order to grasp in a play what he was not able to achieve in his own life- recognition. The ultimate desire of an artist. Therefore I divided the character of Dionysus into two separate characters of ego and alter ego- Euripides and Dionysus. The story takes place in a black box theatre where the characters inside the artist’s mind come to life. The chorus of The Bacchae which in its original version accompany the god, in this stage adaptation help the tormented artist to tell the story. They are “the clear people behind the scenes”, they “spin the wheels”, so that the story can be told.

My contemporary version of The Bacchae tells two tragedies: The tragedy of the fall of the house of Cadmus in Thebes, and the tragedy of an artist who failed to fulfill his dream.

Yair Sherman

Yair Sherman (biography)

Yair Sherman is an award-winning theatre director and one of the most promising fresh voices in Israeli theatre.

Sherman was born in San Jose in 1984 and grew up in Jerusalem. In 2003, he moved to NYC where he studied at The American Musical and Dramatic Academy (AMDA). After completing his studies, Sherman returned to Israel and now lives in Tel Aviv.  He has been working as a theatre director in numerous venues throughout the country and teaches at three of the country’s leading theatrical academies.

In 2016, Sherman won awards for two separate productions: “Best Director” for his production of The Bacchae, at Israel’s annual Kipod Hazahav Fringe Theatre Awards, and “Best Director”, “Best Play”, and “Best Supporting Actor” for The Endless Mourner at The Kufar International Festival in Minsk, Belarus.

 

  • Wednesday 26 July│Paphos Ancient Odeon
  • Friday 28 July│“Skali” Amphitheatre, Aglantzia

Translated by Aharon Shabtai
Directed by Yair Sherman
Composer: Eldad Lidor
Set Design: Adam Keller
Costumes: Rona Plotek
Light design: Nadav Barnea
Light adaptation/operator: Amir Castro
Sound operator: Naor Izsak

 

Cast:
Dionysus: Nadav Bossem
Teiresias: Uri Avrahami
Cadmus: Avi Pnini
Pentheus: Shai Egozi
Messenger: Ora Meirson
Second Messenger: Eyal Heyne Galli
Agave: Shiri Golan
Euripides: Nitzan Rotschild

Bacchae:
Zohar Meidan,
Aurelle Maor,
Michal Weinberg,
Ruth Dannon