Dionysus Theatre (named after the Greek Patron of Drama) has been bringing brave, innovative and successful theatre to the Mornington Peninsula (and beyond) since 2011, and this latest production is, again, a bold and gutsy homage to Ancient Greece.
Lysistrata was originally performed in classical Athens in 411 BCE. A comedy by Aristophanes that, at its heart, tells the rather devilish tale of Lysistrata who persuades the other women to withhold sexual privileges from their men folk as a means of forcing them to end the interminable Peloponnesian War.
Actor Melanie Thomas plays Myrrhine, one of the Athenian women that Lysistrata calls upon to help end the war by withholding sex from her husband, Kinesias. “At first she is hesitant to join the cause, but after some firm convincing from Lysistrata, she agrees (and ‘unhelpfully’ agrees on behalf of the rest of the women!),” explains Thomas. “Later within the play her resolve is shaken, but ultimately strengthened when her husband tries to woo her back home just for sex… You’ll have to come and see the show to find out how she deals with the situation!”
Thomas first read the play in 2009 when she was studying Greek Literature at University and it had an immediate impact. “It immediately resonated with me for the startling and predominant nature of how women have consistently been treated throughout history,” says Thomas. “‘Lysistrata’ has always been at the forefront of my mind of a play that I would dearly love to be involved in, that the themes were ones that I strived to create in my world also – That women can have a voice and change the world. Women (and men) always need to work together, not against one another.”
The play is notable for being an early exposé of sexual relations in a male-dominated society with the strategy the women have adopted to achieve piece creating a battle between the sexes.
“Lysistrata’ looks predominately at the strengths of women through the major waves of feminism – Suffragettes, Second Wave and Third/Modern Wave,” explains Thomas. “It explores how women have been treated by men and society though these waves and the forces of female authority that have grown within each generation. Drawing on influential women (of many you would never have heard of, but were instrumental in forcing positive changes) in each important facet of feminism, the play evolves and allows the audience to comprehend what it has been, and is, to be a woman in a patriarchal society.”
As with plays of its time, the complete comprehension of Lysistrata is dependent on prior knowledge associated with historical events of the time and the audiences’ of the day familiarity with local identities and issues.
In this case, the creatives have made changes to update some of the language for a discerning and contemporary audience. “Interaction happens in and around the space, including within the audience. You will notice that the even shape of the stage celebrates Womankind,” says Thomas. “When Aristophanes’ wrote ‘Lysistrata’, he was so fed up with the Peloponnesian War; it was a joke that of all people, women would be the ones to finally save Greece from destruction…Women! Playing upon this, there are moments of great comedy and profound drama for the audience to comprehend the themes within the play.”
The play is heralded as a raunchy and rollicking revolt of the sexes so do attend award winning Dionysus Theatre’s interpretation of Lysistrata – hell hath no fury like a woman denied!
Says Thomas: “If you are interested in theatre that challenges you to think, come and have a mental workout. If you are interested in contemporary interpretations of classical theatre, you need to book tickets. If you are interested in history, be there! If you are interested in women’s rights, you MUST ATTEND! ‘Lysistrata’ is a show for every member of society (as long as you’re over the age of 15). This is a theatrical experience that I implore you to encounter, to confront yourself with. I promise, you will not regret it!”
October 7 – 15