Theatre at UBC

THE BACCHAE

by Euripides

directed by Kelly-Ruth Mercier
Chan Centre for the Performing Arts

March 10 - 20th, 1999

by Stefan & Giorgia Moraw

When we sat down to write this review we were unsure what to say. Perhaps the saying,"It's all Greek to me", is best fitting. The presentation from beginning to end was unexpected; perhaps exactly the feeling Euripides wanted to impose on his audience.

This tough sounding tragedy is carried out through a very unusual and interesting choice of futuristic theatre, something we sometimes felt to define as "shock theatre". The play took place in the BC Tel Studio whose layout allowed potent scenic effects. The "word" of Dionysus was brought to us through the most powerful means of communication: multi-media.

The play opens with Dionysus coming from Asia to establish his worship in Thebes. His divine birth has been denied by King Pantheus and by the people of Thebes, and as a result, he drives the women of Thebes crazy and they flee to the mountains where they are known as Maenads.

Dionysus ruins anyone who denies him; he is a self-seeking egoistic god  whose motives are cruel. His natural force are the instincts and impulses of the human soul, the search for freedom, and joy brought to uncontrolled extremes. The Bacchae puts god and beast so close to each other that it is hard to distinguish them. He takes different shapes...a lion, a snake..He has no compassion, no sensitivity towards the suffering he inflicts and yet, he is always serene and smiling. The question in the play is how to find a way out; becoming a follower leads into that unreal world of ecstatic joy, but denying the god means losing one's life.

This U.B.C. production brought this ancient drama in a contemporary setting without damaging its content. The performances of all involved were solid, with the Chorus, led by Melissa Poll, doing a fabulous job of creating and projecting insanity. The sets were modern and simple allowing the viewer to focus on the unfolding tragedy. Throughout the play, the cast never lost the attention of its audience, something most good productions can't say, and in the end, we all went away somewhat appalled yet satisfied.