The Ancient Greek play The Bacchae will be performed by Final Year and Masters students of the Drama programme in NUI Galway in the Mick Lally Theatre, Druid Lane from 14 February to 18 February at 8pm. This is the first time the play is being performed in Ireland.
Under the steerage of director Max Hafler, the actors hope to give an eye-opening theatrical performance to expose the potential consequences that may arise as a result of ignoring the darker side of ourselves.
Hafler has taught on the drama programme in NUI Galway since 2000 and recently set up Chekov Training and Perfomrance Ireland. He spoke with SIN last week and explained how the play, originally written by Euripides, has been translated by David Grieg, one of Scotland’s most prolific writers.
“It’s a modern retelling – and when I say modern, it is very accessible and funny, but it is very dark,” said Hafler.
The play centres around the character Dionysos, the god of wine, madness, sex, wine and theatre.
“Basically, the story is that there is a god, Dionysos who was born in Thebes and he comes back with his followers, the Bacchae and they promote the idea of ecstasy,” explained Hafler.
“It’s all about unpredictability, danger, and forbidden things.”
Rehearsals started early for the cast, with members returning back to college a week before term to get started. Hafler explained the process of getting to grips with the script and how he applied the Chekov technique in training his actors.
“On these projects, we do a full week first. I do that because I want the group to understand the play together – so it’s not just me saying, ‘Oh this is what this play is about’,” said Hafler.
“It’s kind of like a piece of music. That sounds very heady and intellectual, but it’s not – I’m very much not of that school. I work a lot with something called Chekov technique, which I teach here as well.
“It’s all about imagination of the body first as opposed to a sit down and read the play for years and years and then trying to get up and do something. It’s all very on your feet.”
A lot of preparation went into the play, with actors perfecting intricate speeches and the theatrical language. The cast also chose to use masks for the performance, something that has given a nod to the Greek roots of the play.
“The Greek plays used masks entirely,” said Hafler.
“In our version we only give the chorus masks. They’ve been made very nicely by a student Aisling Fitzsimons, a fourth year who is also in the play.”
Hafler explained how this play is very varied and recommended people buy tickets in advance, saying people had been turned away at the door from last year’s production.
“You have bits of it that you might think you’re at a musical – but we have tried to steer away from that – however, we have some really great singers in the group. It’s thought-provoking and shocking – quite a lot of things for an hour and a half!” joked Hafler.
The play runs all week, with tickets availble for €10/€8 at the SocsBox in NUIG, the Druid and online https://druid.ticketsolve.com/#/shows
-By Sorcha O’Connor