Procne & Tereus

21 Oct

In Northanger Abbey, Jane Austen’s parody of the gothic novel, the young heroine sees dark motives and hidden horror in the most mundane occurrences. At the novel’s climax, Catherine is confronted about her riotous suspicions. “What have you been judging from? Remember the country and the age in which we live!” Catherine is humiliated, realizing she’s let her imagination run wild.

And this is the challenge of contemporizing the ancient Greeks. Are they of our age?

(I’ve written previously of my attitude to this.*)

Procne and Tereus, written and directed by Saro Lusty-Cavallari, is a fascinating piece of theatre. Like Simon Stone’s Thyestes, this play contemporizes the setting and dialogue, and the result is an engaging immediacy that has the freshness of improvisation.

Procne and Tereus

The performances by Christian Byers, Lulu Howes and Victoria Zerbst are strong, creating captivating rhythms of light and dark.

Like Thyestes, the earlier scenes are very effective, but as the play proceeds an interesting thing happens. As the stakes become higher, there’s an intriguing discordance between the world of the play (as created by the setting and dialogue) and the behaviour of the characters. There is a provocative gap between what we think we know about these people and their actions. It reminds us how much we moderns expect rationality in behavior. (And asks us to consider whether this is a rational expectation.)

Foucault in his History of Sexuality asked us to consider the cultural aspects of what we usually reduce to biology. He pointed out that by claiming universality for particular behaviours we were actually making political assertions.

For me, this play did a similar thing with violence. A stimulating theatrical experiment, it led me to question the correspondence between the ancient and modern worlds, and to ask exactly how violence manifests itself in our contemporary society.

Veronica Kaye



Procne & Tereus

Cellar Theatre

15 -17 Oct (This production has closed.)

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