Lysistrata review: ‘a consistent hit’


Taking an accidentally feminist narrative from Aristophanes’ Lysistrata and turning it into a modern-day celebration of female sexuality, DUCT’s production is a consistent hit from start to finish.

Opening the narrative with ‘Oh, Pretty Woman’ is reminiscent of the male gaze, in the meaning of the song itself and the film ‘Pretty Woman’ we associate it with. It’s a nod to everything the play is about to undermine and it makes the subsequent performance all the funnier.

In our current era of fourth-wave feminism, it would have been hard not to have made this play more overtly feminist. Here, the dialogue is more explicit and it’s so evident from ’s direction of the play that we are meant to see the women just as invested in sex as men are; it’s refreshing.

The writing is absurd though, and every opportunity for comedy is exploited by the cast and production. From the acting to the use of minuscule props in the face of the script, there’s an element of self-awareness which never allows the play to take itself too seriously.

Even though it’s written by an Ancient Greek playwright, it’s hard to think about whether there are plays now which could be adapted to create this environment of openness about sex from the female perspective.

The female actors of the cast feel more authentic than the male side. Perhaps this is deliberate, the male roles feel juvenile and comical whereas the women have an actual cause. They’re almost made to feel like a caricature but it’s hard to tell where the line lies between the directing and the acting.

Although the male cast settle into their roles as the play continues, the women are the focus of the show in every sense of the word. Iz McGrady is delightfully stubborn throughout and has a commanding stage presence suited to the bolshy Lysistrata.

Supported by Alice Bridge’s Calonice and chorus leader Eleanor Storey, they are a hilarious antithesis to Lysistrata from the offset and their performances only continue to get better. Comedically, the male part of the cast really does shine in the latter half of the play. Again, in its celebration of female sexuality, it is the men, rather, who are parading about in front of the audience in an “intimate” state which is so often the women’s role.

Done with an unashamed confidence, the desperation for sex by the men reaches new heights. It is fulfilled to its highest potential with its cast, who are clearly enjoying themselves just as much as the audience.

If anything, it was slightly unclear as to when the men found out they were being restricted from sex by the women. Perhaps the plot was lost for me amongst the comedic aspect, but it became clear soon enough even if the transition of knowledge wasn’t necessarily apparent.

Outrageous from start to finish, Lysistrata is a contemporary take on Aristophanes’ original piece and it works all the better for it.

Photography: Durham University Classical Theatre

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