Diary: Greek myth goes Dutch

The theatre at Epidaurus. Photo: Jean Housen
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We all know the ancient Greeks to be the pioneers of theatre as we know it today – not least because of their legendary amphitheatres.

One such highly revered performance space is the open-air theatre at Epidaurus, which British archaeologist Mortimer Wheeler once raved about, declaring: “Even a stage whisper could be picked up by the furthest spectator with the cheapest ticket.” This certainly sounds like a better audience experience than at many of our modern theatres.

However, Dutch researchers have thrown a Trojan Horse into the mix by claiming that these incredible acoustics are nothing but a Greek myth.

Researchers at the Eindhoven University of Technology undertook an odyssey to Epidaurus to investigate. And, by Zeus, after making 2,400 recordings calculating the sound strength of different noises around the theatre, they claim that the acoustic quality does not live up to legend.

These findings have fallen on deaf ears in Greece, however, sparking a sound war with furious academics.

The Hellenic Institute of Acoustics argues that the Dutch study lacked “sufficient scientific evidence” and was simply intended to stir controversy.

Tabard says let’s not get our togas into too much of a twist over these ancient acoustics. Perhaps these scientists could instead exert their efforts into solving some of the more pressing issues of the modern theatre world, such as how to fit more loos into a West End theatre?

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