Friday, 17 March 2017

UK Stage and Screen 2017

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.

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