(Mark Fisher’s article appeared in the Guardian, 10/6.)
When David Greig announced his inaugural season as artistic director of the Royal Lyceum, he said he wanted the theatre to be a “democratic space” where Edinburgh’s population could “gather and encounter each other”. It’s hard to imagine him achieving that aim more consummately than in this first in-house show of the season. And he does it with a 2,500-year-old play.
'This play is primal': David Greig on an ancient drama more relevant than ever
The new artistic director of Edinburgh’s Lyceum theatre explains how The Suppliant Women, Aeschylus’s 2,500-year-old play about a refugee crisis, offers a ‘profound statement on the purpose of theatre’
Directed by Ramin Gray, in a co-production with the Actors Touring Company, The Suppliant Women begins with the house lights up and a phalanx of young women filling the stage. As per ancient custom, the performance can’t go ahead until respect has been paid to those who have made it possible. Step forward a civic dignitary – on my night, Deirdre Brock, MP for Edinburgh North and Leith – as libation giver, pouring a bottle of Dionysian wine across the front of Lizzie Clachan’s open breezeblock stage to let the show begin.
The message is clear: we’re all in this together. When 50 women land in Argos seeking refuge from forced marriage with their Egyptian cousins, we need no prompt to think of today’s exiles. “If war-battered refugees deserve protection, don’t we women?” they ask in unison, Gemma May’s radiant chorus leader the focus of a tightly drilled volunteer ensemble.