Skip to main content

Ancient Greek Theatre in action: Exploring the performance of Greek plays

It is one of the paradoxes of the Classics discipline that ancient Greek theatre, a par excellence performative genre, is rarely taught with a focus on performance. The new module 'Ancient Greek Theatre', which the department of Classics and Ancient History is introducing in October 2016, is the first module hosted by a Classics department which puts performance at the heart of the students' learning experience.

The project "Ancient Greek Theatre in Action: Exploring the performance of Greek plays", led by Dr Emmanuela Bakola, supports this initiative by funding two practical workshops led by professional directors of ancient theatre in modern performance: namely Adele Thomas (Aeschylus' Oresteia, Globe Theatre 2015) and Helen Eastman (three times director of the Cambridge Greek play and artistic director of the Live Canon theatre company). It also funds a session on the study of modern performances of Euripides' Medea, led by the director of Archive of Performances of Greek and Roman Drama at Oxford, Professor Fiona Macintosh.

In these immersive workshops, the students will work with the directors in order to understand the relationship between chorus and characters, the importance of space and proxemics, and the communication between cast and audience. Students will explore the semantics of the human body and its movement in space, the impact of individual and group performance, as well as props, their signification and use in the theatre. Both workshops will take place in the third week of each term and will be designed to provide in-depth, practical understanding of the material of the research-led lectures and seminars which will have been conducted in previous weeks. They will also foster imagination and original thinking coming from the non-traditional (for Classics) route of theatre practice. Furthermore, the session on the study of modern performances (which will follow the second workshop) will provide another dimension into the study of Greek drama, by introducing the students into a variety of acclaimed engagements with the Medea of Euripides. Together, these experiences will give an extra insight into modern adaptations of Greek drama, especially since they will take place after screenings of modern productions of relevant plays.

Emmanuela Bakola is Assistant Professor in Greek Language and Literature at the University of Warwick. Her current project uses cultural anthropology and theatre space theory and argues that Aeschylean dramaturgy, imagery, stage action, and engagement with cult and ritual show that Aeschylean theatre is profoundly preoccupied with the human relationship to the earth and its resources.