The Suppliants

Aeschylus, translated by James Kerr

The Suppliants publicity image

BAC is currently showcasing the top directors put forward for this year's James Menzies-Kitchin Award. The runner-up, Sam Leifer, has chosen Greek tragedy to show off his talents.

The Suppliants is played in modern dress within Lucy Osborne's excellent thrust staging. This features a pebbly beach and attractive crumbling shrine; the whole overseen by a remarkable statue of Zeus. The God has been cast in plaster of paris and looks like a stunningly well-hung, left arm fast bowler in his delivery stride.

Three suppliant sisters (rather than the fifty in the original) from Egypt have been washed up as refugees in Argos. This follows a hasty "exile from lust" as a result of which they narrowly escaped with their honour. They are noble sisters and, with their father Danaus, beg King Pelasgus to protect them.

With echoes of our current War on Terror, he agrees to do so, thereby risking the safety of his own citizens by tying them into an inevitable war.

When the crisis arrives in the form of two well-muscled pirates, Paul O'Mahony as the King has to choose between saving his people or the three shrieking suppliants and nobly keeps his promise.

This short play about honour has an unbelievably abrupt ending, apparently because James Kerr's modern translation stops short. It is very relevant in the current political climate as asylum seekers fear for their lives at home and can expect no protection where they are washed up.

Sam Leifer and his cast, especially suppliants Amber Agar, Lauren Hassan-Leslie and twelve-year-old Shanice Noble, convey the fear of the sisters impressively but all too soon this collapses into noisy, uncontrolled hysteria, not something that the Greeks generally specialised in.

Reviewer: Philip Fisher

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