Lysistrata

Aristophanes, adapted by Francis Hardy
Fluellen Theatre Company
Depot Studio, Arts Wing, Swansea Grand Theatre
(2011)

Aristophanes' classic tale of how women band together in a desperate attempt to stop their men from wasting their lives in warfare by denying them sexual favours has given rise(no pun intended) to several lacklustre productions - the one which stands out in my memory dates from some years ago when Swansea University Drama Society staged a puerile and crude adaptation of the play which included more knob jokes than one could shake a stick at - but happily, Fluellen Theatre Company is renowned for its high quality and from the outset it was evident that the play would be safe in their hands.

A twelve-strong cast - led by the excellent Lauralee Nicole as the feisty title character - acquitted themselves superbly in their respective roles, and breathed life into their characters, each of whom was beautifully drawn. This was a production set loosely in the present day (with a few artistic liberties thrown in here and there), cleverly referencing everything from Sex and the City right through to Dad's Army, with smart topical asides clearly meant to embrace contemporary political shenanigans such as MPs' expenses and the war on terror.

Claire Novelli and Patricia Morgan were a hoot as the old crones who comment upon the action and taunt the two Dad's Army-style soldiers (David Dooley and Dudley Owen), while Lysistrata's buddies Colonice (Nia Trussler-Jones) and Myrrhine (Charlotte Rogers) could have stepped out of an episode of one of those glossy TV shows featuring shopaholic WAGs with one-track minds. Katherine Weare also contributed a splendid comic turn as the feral Lampito, whose bark and bite were equally deadly.

The hapless males - including Christopher Hale and James Scannell - fared brilliantly in a production dominated by female characters and managed to convey their collective frustration without recourse to overt crudity: for me, one of the problems with this play has always been that the men seem to have no means of relieving their desire and behave as if under a spell. This was still very much the case here, but such was the heightened nature of the piece that it worked well and if one was able to suspend one's disbelief, then the whole thing pulled together very effectively.

A terrific piece of theatre, intelligently directed by Peter Richards and adapted by Francis Hardy, and by far the finest version of this work that I have ever had the pleasure to see.

Reviewer: Graham Williams