Not sure why Irish writers and Irish theatres are exploring Greek theatre and legend for fresh inspiration in some rush to be modern and draw tenuous connections with current political problems. Rough magic commissioned a new version of Racine’s Phaedra from Hilary Fannin (writer) and Ellen Cranitch (composer).
While the production directed by Lynne Parker at the Project for the Dublin Theatre Festival has a lot of quality it is also a mixed bag of styles. The storyline is ancient Greek, but the dialogue sizzles with crude but funny one-liners and Stephen Brennan’s, Theseus is almost a take-off of Tommy Tiernan.
Phaedra is full of angst and undresses into provocative black undies. Theramenes is a shrink full of avoiding psycho-babble.
Musically, it is like a slow baroque opera, played by a trad-Irish band onstage, with a singing three-people chorus of a male in fish scales, a diva in a punk hairstyle and a sean nos Riverdancer in thigh boots.
The acting is good even if there is a fair deal of pretentiousness and some awful slow motion walking like operatic robots.
Despite a modern staging and video imagery, the production team missed out by not filming the sea and water on a bigger screen.
Catherine Walker was luminous as Phaedra, Michele Forbes was wonderful as Enone and Sarah Greene was modern as a coke fuelled Ismene.
Rory Musgrave was operatic as Poseidon and Cathy white shone as a punk Aphrodite. John Comiskey set and lighting was splendid and Blaithín Sheerin did the costume design.