Aristophanes' Thesmophoriazusae

Translator-director Kostas Tsianos
presented by Theatriki Diadromi at
at the Epidavros Greek Festival
11-12 July, 2003

Every year there are productions of Aristophanic comedies in the festival of Epidavros, usually fewer than the tragedies but nevertheless a significant part of the festival's program. Apart from the festival's productions, Aristophanes' comedies are frequently produced on the Greek stage and are considered a popular form of entertainment particularly during the summer season, when it is common for theatre companies to tour around the country.

However there is, and has been for quite some time, a concern regarding the content and relevance of the plays. Naturally a significant part of the modern audience is not familiar with the ancient society and politics which are mentioned by Aristophanes and thus cannot enjoy the very specific social and political satire. This can be seen to result in the productions' failure to reach and entertain a great part of their audiences. In Modern Greek productions of Aristophanic comedies, this problem is usually dealt with either emphasis on the scatology and the visual humor without significant alterations of the text, or with additions and changes which make the social and political satire relevant to Modern Greek society.

The Theatriki Diadromi's production of Thesmophoriazusae aimed to entertain its audience and make the play relevant to modern Greek society through significant alterations of the original text. This is not specified in the program as there is no mention of a translation; the director Kostas Tsianos appears to be also responsible for the performance of the text and not a translation. In the English section this is translated as "theatrical version" and in French as "adaptation". The production's text followed the basic plot of Aristophanes but was also influenced by the modern satirist Mendis Bostantzoglou (otherwise known as BOST), and the contemporary Athenian Epitheorisi (a type of popular, musical political and social satire).

Consequently the production had a very different text, which however was in the spirit of Aristophanic comedy. The most obvious change was the additional character, (or rather a more developed character based on Euripides' servant), Gaga, a Bulgarian or Albanian female servant, who does not understand Greek but communicates in some kind of English.

The parody of Euripides' plays depends upon the audiences' knowledge of his tragedies, however a modern Greek audience in its majority is not familiar with the plays, especially the ones that do not survive complete and are thus not now produced. In this production, instead of performing the actual text of the parodies, the director felt that the actors should explain to the audience the plot of the plays that are parodied. The parody was also achieved with visual imagery; 'Aristophanic' props, phalluses and men in female costumes (Mnesilochus would change costume for each female tragic character he performed). Notably, Euripides' appearance as Menelaus wearing a helmet with horns on it recalled the popular Modern Greek expression that describes cuckolds: 'horned-man with a helmet'.

There were also many references to contemporary political and social life. The most notable and extensive of these was a satirical reference to the former king of Greece and his quest to find a house for himself somewhere in Greece, now that he has found a name. It may be a coincidence that on the days of the production in Epidavros the former king was touring in the area but did not attend the performance.

Extracts from published reviews

[The director, Kostas Tsianos] also had the responsibility for the 'adaptation' of the text, without making clear what 'adaptation' means - what it implies and what it conceals. The direction was decent, without however the special 'demon' that would lead to the comic 'take off' of the play.
Menas Christides "The spectators have the first role" Eleftherotypia, 14 July 2003

To the extent that comedy was attempted, this was restricted to the familiar vulgar jokes, the immortal, enormous phalluses and the kicks in the backside. To the extent that a musical was attempted, this was restricted to chubbily fresh, long-haired girls who waved their dresses, their tambourines and their ribbons while singing.
Stella Loizou "Homophobia, coprophilia and other evils" To Vima, 20 July 2003

The outcome of this comedy by Theatriki Diadromi, adapted (with elements of Bost) and directed by the able and experienced Kostas Tsianos, was a careful, well organized and rhythmical production by both the actors and the director. However the Thesmophoria was missing from its themes, as the chorus functioned more as a bringer of comic ideas and characters and not as the dominant element of ancient drama.
Thymeli "Epidavria 2003 - Thesmophoriazousae with Theatrike Diadromi" Rizospastes 3 September 2003

Tsianos as a translator, using as his model (sadly) Maria Pentayiotissa, turned [the play] into a comic idyll with badly done fifteen-syllable verses. The choral odes were leveled. He added musical interludes from Epitheorises, an opening ballet-like number was even written! But the disaster came with a general style of the production.
Kostas Yeorgousopoulos "Transvestiazousae" Ta Nea, 8 September 2003

Tsianos created, freely adapting, but also with respect to the spirit of the poet, a fifteen-syllable verse, poetic system with reference to Bost's super-realistic parody.
Yannis Varveris "Successful reworking" Kathimerini 28 September 2003

Reviewed by Smaragda Hatzidaki
Smaragda Hatzidaki graduated in Theatre and Performance Studies from the University of Warwick in 2003. She currently lives in Athens.

Thesmophoriazusae performed at the Epidavros Festival, 2003

Relevant Web-sites - The web page of the daily newspaper Ta Nea with articles, interviews, reviews (in modern Greek) - The web page of the daily newspaper Elephtherotypia, with articles, interviews, reviews (in modern Greek) - The Kathimerini newspaper with articles and reviews (in Greek) - The Rizospastis newspaper with articles and reviews (in Greek) - To Vima newspaper with articles and reviews (in Greek)