Performances in the 1990s
On the 40th anniversary of the first performance of the Greek Play, in 1993, a reunion was held for those who had taken part in all previous plays.
Greek Play performances of the 1990s (more information found below):
- Clouds (Aristophanes) 1990
- Oedipus Tyrannus (Sophocles) 1991
- Acharnians (Aristophanes) 1992
- Electra (Euripides) 1993
- Agamemnon (Aeschylus) 1994
- Lysistrata (Aristophanes) 1995
- Ajax (Sophocles) 1996
- Medea (Euripides) 1997
- Oedipus Tyrannus (Sophocles) 1998
- Choephoroi (Aeschylus) 1999
1990: Aristophanes - Clouds
The director of the 1990 production of the Clouds would later become a well known theatre director, working at Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre among many others. Therefore, the play had the polish and finesse often lacking among amateur productions.
Indeed, letters indicated that there was talk of another American tour, but the plans did not come to fruition.
In many of the remaining programmes there is questionnaire to be filled out by the audience, showing the Classics Department’s eagerness to know what the audience felt about each year’s productions.
1991: Sophocles - Oedipus Tyrannus
In late January the Business Manager for the 1991 production of Oedipus Tyrannus wrote a letter to all the cast and crew advising them to buy their tickets quickly as they were selling out ‘rather faster than expected’.
Throughout the years of the Greek play, there have been many productions when people had to be turned away as the performances were full. This illustrates the slightly unexpected popularity of the Greek play, which has merely increased as the years go on.
1992: Aristophanes - Acharnians
We have a lot of documentation for the 1992 production of Acharnians, a play which had been previously performed in 1968, and would be repeated a short time afterwards in 2001.
A wide variety of modern music, such as military songs, was used to great effect and the sketch books suggest that the costumes were very accomplished and creative. There were two Executive Producers for this particular production, and they also had an assistant from the staff, so the staff involvement was at a peak.
1993: Euripides - Electra
Euripides’ Electra was the choice of play to celebrate the Greek play’s fortieth anniversary in 1993. The programme contains a detailed history of the tradition of the play, complete with pictures of previous plays and the cast list of the 1953 Hippolytus.
Forty years on and the play had toured overseas, lost and made money, been reviewed by the national press, been cancelled, lauded and criticised.
A reunion for those who had taken part in all previous Greek plays took place on November the 24th 1993, the date of first performance of Hippolytus, forty years before.
1994: Aeschylus - Agamemnon
In all this time there had been 37 productions (38 if one counts the cancelled Bacchae of 1986), but not a single Aeschylus play had been staged. This changed in 1994 when Agamemnon was performed, a play which happened to be the first ever Greek play put on by a British University in the original language (Balliol College Oxford in 1860).
The production made much use of choreographed mime and masks, and sought to set the saga of Agamemnon in context. There were some enquiries about whether there would be another American tour, but the arrangements proved too difficult and it was decided that a tour would take place, but to Dublin, Ireland.
Featured: Agamemnon Tour
As an advertising letter regarding the King’s College London Greek Play Tours said: ‘We are keen to re-establish the tradition of taking plays on tour.’ This was achieved, with a great deal of effort and organisation, in 1994. The tour of Agamemnon was finalised in late January 1994 and would take place in early April in Trinity College, Dublin.
1995: Aristophanes - Lysistrata
The first and only production to date of Aristophanes’ Lysistrata was in 1995. With some fetching and very explicit illustrations from pots accompanying the synopsis in the programme, we can only assume it was an appropriately fun production.
The production was advertised by a column in the King’s College London magazine, Comment.
1996: Sophocles - Ajax
In 1996 the play faced another challenge and overcame it, when the director of the production of Ajax fell ill and unfortunately had to withdraw in early December 1995. Luckily the director of the 1994 Agamemnon took over and the crisis was averted.
With complex music, five live musicians and six singing chorus members, the production made full use of all resources to achieve great dramatic tension. Interestingly, the poster for this production was the first to feature photographs of certain cast members.
1997: Euripides - Medea
The 1997 production of Medea has been known as one of the most adventurous and successful King’s College Greek plays, very possibly because of the risks taken in it’s interpretation.
The music was exotic and the chorus moved in stylised choreography influenced by traditional South Indian dancing. An English narrator was added at the beginning of each scene.
The choices made in this production can be seen to epitomise the evolution of Greek drama performed in the original language: seeking to recreate an authentic, exciting experience whilst still engaging the audience.
1998: Sophocles - Oedipus Tyrannus
In 1998 King’s Classics Department revisited Oedipus Tyrannus, which had last been performed in 1991. This being a relatively short gap between two productions of the same play, it was important not to be criticised for unoriginality, so great thought was put into the interpretation of this production.
Unusually, the production was directed by two people, and they are also credited as being the producers. The audience of several performances were asked to fill in comment slips, and unsurprisingly the results were very mixed, ranging from raving praise to diatribes, but always provoking strong reactions.
1999: Aeschylus - Choephoroi
King’s had only produced one Aeschylean play in the past (the 1994 Agamemnon) but in 1999 another of the author’s more difficult plays was chosen: Choephori, the second part of the Oresteian trilogy.
In her notes for the programme, the director observes: ‘This year we wanted to prove that keeping close to the text and following Aeschylus’ own directions as directed in the text can be an equally entertaining and didactic experience.’ This desire to produce an ‘authentic’ Greek play can be seen as a reaction against the heavily coloured interpretations of the past years, and this play was very well received.