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Hippolytus review at Queen Elizabeth Hall Theatre Bristol

Although a third of the venues on this two-month nationwide tour by Brighton-based Actors of Dionysus are schools, this modern adaptation of a 2,500-year-old Greek tragedy is no mere academic exercise. Adaptor/director David Stuttard has used Euripides’ tale of the vengeance of Aphrodite, goddess of sex, on the chaste Hippolytus, for his refusal to abandon his vows of chastity, as the framework for both a series of dramatic declarations and a thought-provoking view of where responsibility for our actions lie.

He keeps reasonably close to the narrative of how the hero’s fate is sealed by false accusations of raping his stepmother, while lending both the play and the dialogue a 21st-century feel – even to the extent of portraying Hippolytus in the pre-performance publicity as a religious fundamentalist. There is only the occasional glance in the direction of poetry and some of the prose is perhaps over contemporary. However, Euripides’ challenge to some of the religious and moral tenets of his day remain just as relevant.

For the first time in his exploration of Greek tragedy, Stuttard abandons the traditional chorus. Instead he opts for a chamber approach that gives his key actors monologue opportunities to bare their souls, while also allowing passionate dramatic explosions, not least the final high decibel confrontation between Kevin Johnson, as Hippolytus, and Roger Ringrose, as his father Theseus.

Production Information

Queen Elizabeth Hall Theatre, Bristol, February 24/25, then touring

David Stuttard from Euripides
David Stuttard
Actors of Dionysus
Emily Wright, Kevin Johnson, Leila Crerar, Kaye Quinley, Roger Ringrose
Running time
1hr 15mins

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