In a conference at King’s College London on July 3rd and 4th, about what makes Aristophanes funny, then and now, (https://www.kcl.ac.uk/artshums/depts/classics/eventrecords/2016-17/Aristophanic-Laughter-How-WasIs-Old-Comedy-Funny.aspx) I chose to talk about melancholy in recent revivals. I had been deeply moved by last summer’s Lysistrata directed by Michael Marmarinos and I started wondering about the serious, melancholy, nostalgic, emotional aspects of certain revivals of Old Comedy.
My thoughts led me to reminisce about the Frogs I directed in 2012, a production that marked the beginning of Fanstastico Theatro as a theatre company. There was sadness in the story, which was framed as a play-within-a-play, and conceived as a memorial for a theatre director who (really) went to the underworld.
I also spoke about last year’s Wealth, from aptly named theatre company Ftochologia (“the poor”), directed by Costas Silvestros. That was the surprise of last year’s International Festival of Ancient Greek Drama, and, some would say, its redemption, a production that charmed and moved basically everyone who saw it. The bittersweet feeling was present there too, as we sang along with the cast, with tears in our eyes:
“Λίγα ψίχουλα αγάπης σου γυρεύω κι ως την άλλη μου ζωή θα σε λατρεύω.»
(I only ask for a few breadcrumbs of your love and I will love you until the next life.)
Why are we sometimes sad when doing Aristophanes these days? Is it because we have all stopped believing in utopias? Have we lost all hope? I rather think that it is due to a desire to enhance, in the eyes of the spectator, the opposition between dramatic poetry and social disintegration: these two are the eternal opposites, and the battle still goes on. Who will win? Each summer in Greece and Cyprus, as we return to the ancient amphitheatres to revisit these immortal texts, let’s remember they were born in a society in a state of emergency. Is it possible that they can give us some perspective about the dilemmas and trauma we are facing today?