A bAcchae

Conceived by Jay Miller, written by the Company with Corinne Salisbury
The Yard, Hackney Wick
(2011)

A bAcchae publicity image

The Yard is one of London's newest theatre spaces. The theatre itself, were it not freezing, would be a good place to watch drama, with its wooden platforms and well-spaced seating.

Its location may seem forbidding, on an industrial space in Hackney reached through barely populated streets. Anyone intent on visiting would be well advised to ignore the map and directions on the company's website, since these are literally misleading and the venue itself is not well signposted.

Once there, the experience is rather like a student dive, the bar and theatre primarily manned by men sporting unkempt beards and visitors are hand stamped turning them into immature human tickets.

A bAcchae is influenced by Greek tragedy but only in the very loosest sense.

It gives the impression of having been dreamed up by someone who knows what they are doing but doesn't necessarily have the ability to convey it to anybody else.

The early scenes feature a Canadian man with wild hair, talking self-absorbedly but allowing the audience to share in his ramblings.

After a low budget but effective mini coup de theatre, Chris Bailey's Dionysus, as he announces himself to be, is transformed into Caroline Williams.

They are replaced by improbably young Government spokesman Peter (Jack Chedburn) and his father Caleb played by Gerard Bell.

The pair are troubled by a plague of dancing that is afflicting the country, Pied Piper or Rhinoceros style, under the influence of an unknown celestial with evil tendencies.

After Dad is seduced into the dance, Peter attempts to save the day with unfortunate consequences.

The main strength of Jay Miller's 90-minute production lies in the dance, which is tightly choreographed.

The drama itself, which he conceived and devised with the cast and playwright Corinne Salisbury must have meant something deep to him and on opening night greatly amused a group that apparently were friends of the company.

Sadly, the rest of the audience would have been baffled by the chilly experience and what it was supposed to be saying to them.

Reviewer: Philip Fisher