by Philip Hooker
It is now too late to catch The Trackers of Oxyrhynchus, a rare revival of Tony Harrison’s version
of Sophocles’ Ichneutae in the tiny Finborough Theatre, London (not much room for the clog
dancing). But there will be fresh opportunities to catch the version of Aeschylus’ Suppliant Women,
by David Greig, which was well-reviewed at Edinburgh and elsewhere last autumn. It comes to
Manchester’s Royal Exchange theatre from 10 March and to London’s Young Vic from 13
November; it has a topical theme and features a large community chorus.
Then, at London’s Jermyn Street theatre, we will have a production of Stephen Sondheim’s musical
version of Aristophanes’ Frogs from 14 March. This is not quite a UK premiere of this 1974 musical
(there was a production at Brentford Baths in 1990), but it is the first professional UK production of
the 2004 Broadway version revised by Nathan Lane, with Michael Matus and George Rae. Then we
have Boudica at Shakespeare’s Globe theatre from 10 September, a new play by Tristan Bernays,
directed by Eleanor Rhode, which promises to be both feminist and rowdy. At the turn of the year, in
London, we can expect From Oedipus to Antigone, a modern version of Sophocles’ Theban Plays
by South African director Yael Farber, the second production in a West End season arranged by
Marianne Elliott. Meanwhile, at Northampton, from 16 June, there will be the European premiere of
An Iliad by Lisa Peterson and Denis O’Hare, based on the Robert Fagles translation, a one-man feat
of storytelling, widely performed in the US, with added music from Orlando Gough.
The major UK theatrical venture is, of course, the Royal Shakespeare Company’s Roman season, with
main-house productions of Julius Caesar, Antony and Cleopatra, Titus Andronicus and
Coriolanus and, in the Swan Theatre, a new play, Vice Versa, Phil Porter’s version of Plautus’ Miles
Gloriosus and others, plus Marlowe’s Dido, Queen of Carthage. Productions will also be screened
in cinemas worldwide – Julius Caesar on 26 April, Antony and Cleopatra on 24 May, Titus
Andronicus on 9 August, and Coriolanus on 11 October – presumably with some encore screenings.
And the climax to the whole season, just confirmed, is Imperium, a two part adaptation of Robert
Harris’ Cicero trilogy, each with three plays and two intervals, by Mike Poulton, directed by Greg
Doran, starting in November in the Swan Theatre and running until the end of February. “Rome
meets the West Wing”. Poulton previously adapted Wolf Hall in two parts for the RSC, which was a
great success, transferring to London and New York. We can suppose that a London transfer is
already pencilled in, if Imperium opens well at Stratford.
Among films due in 2017, a thorough survey reveals just one to report. The Killing of a Sacred
Deer, an art house film by Yorgos Lanthimos (best known for The Lobster), is a psychological thriller
about a 12 year old boy who tries to integrate a Cincinnati surgeon into his dysfunctional family and
stars Colin Farrell and Nicole Kidman. It is “inspired” by Euripides’ tragedy. And, on the smaller
screen, we can expect Britannia, a major 10 part drama series by Jez Butterworth, all about the
Roman invasion of Celtic Britannia in 43 AD, starring David Morrissey, Kelly Reilly and Zoe
Wanamaker; this is a lavish co-production between Sky Television and Amazon, which should
emerge in autumn 2017.
Philip Hooker is the Hon. Treasurer of the Classical Association, and writes regularly for the CA
Blog on Classics in the Media.