Greek tragedy in the round does the rounds

Innovation and ancient tradition combine in a production of Lady Jane Lumley’s 1557 translation of Euripides’ play Iphigenia at Preston’s New Continental tomorrow night.

Wednesday, 15th January 2014, 9:39 am
16th century playwright Lady Jane Lumley
16th century playwright Lady Jane Lumley

Lumley’s Iphigenia, which is also performed at Lancaster Castle the on Friday, is the first dramatic work in English written by a woman.

The Rose Company, an all-women theatre group based in Lancaster premièred the play last year at the castle and then in academic venues in Cambridge and London.

This is a welcome revival of the show, with performances in Preston, Lancaster Castleand Liverpool.

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The play tells of the Greek fleet in Aulis harbour, delayed by weather in their quest to avenge the theft and debauchery of Menelaus’ wife Helen by the Trojan Paris.

In exchange passage unto Troy, King Agamemnon must offer his daughter, Iphigenia, as a sacrifice to the goddess Diana.

As ever in Greek Tragedy nothing works out as expected between the fallible mortals and their quixotic divinities.

A cast of just 10 women, with some seamless doubling, deliver Lady Lumley’s vivid and surprisingly modern-sounding text with clarity and a finely-judged variety of dramatic flow.

Staged in the round, full use is made of all possible entrances/exits.

It will be particularly at home in Preston’s New Continental; where we saw a stunningly brutal and visceral Macbeth last year.

This is a timeless story as powerful today as it was 2,500 years ago when Lady Jane, right, first told it, in the early, turbulent years of Queen Elizabeth I.

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