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article imageArts essential for a civilised society

By Mathew Wace Peck     Nov 27, 2010 in Entertainment
Manchester - A Greek drama currently being performed in Manchester has been recommended as essential viewing for the present British government.
Paul Foley is so impressed with the latest production of the Athenian writer Euripides’s last play, The Bacchae, that he’s telling people to head there without delay.
“Anyone who believes that classical Greek drama is not for them [then] this spellbinding production of Euripides’s tale of the Greek god Dionysus’s revenge on [the] King of Thebes will cure any lingering aversion they may have,” he wrote in the Morning Star.
Then, in an obvious reference to the Con-Dem government’s intentions to cut funding to the arts in the UK, Foley suggests that Prime Minister David Cameron and his whole Cabinet should go and see the play:
Every member of this philistine government should be dragged to this production. Then let them tell us that the arts are not important to a civilised community.
Better still, perhaps we could all conjure up the power of the Gods to rain down thunderbolts on their unworthy heads.
Foley describes director Braham Murray’s production – currently being performed at Manchester’s Royal Exchange – as “theatre of the highest quality [which] demonstrates the power of a great play and great actors”. He continues:
From the first moment the play grips the audience by the throat and it doesn't let go until the lights go down nearly two hours later. [The] skilful direction allows the tension to build until it reaches its horrific climax.
Braham Murray has created a wonderful chorus who weave their magical dances around the action.
Foley has nothing but praise for the young cast, especially Sam Alexander and Jotham Annan, saying:
Alexander [has created] a wonderfully cocky King Pentheus [but] the standout performance of the night is the portrayal of Dionysus by Jotham Annan.
He is absolutely mesmerising as the god whose personality flits between the genial and the menacing. The emotional power he exudes casts a spell over the entire audience.
Trial, punishment and justice
The Bacchae is a Greek tragedy, which is also known as The Bacchantes. It was written by Euripides during his final years in Macedon, at the court of Archelaus I of Macedon, and received its posthumous premiere in 405 BC, at the Theatre of Dionysus.
The play is based on the mythological story of King Pentheus of Thebes (played by Alexander in this production) and his mother, Agavë, and their punishment by Pentheus’s cousin, the god Dionysus (Annan), for refusing to worship him.
Annan attended RADA – the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art – in London, during which time he appeared in a number of stage roles. These included Spring Awakening (John Beschizza), ’Tis Pity She’s a Whore (Lucy Pitman-Wallace) and The Trial (Gari Jones).
His television roles, to date, have included guest parts in Only Fools and Horses (1996), The Bill (2000), The Invisibles (2008) and, in 2009, two episodes of the BBC’s long-running hospital drama, Holby City. In 1994, Annan played Prince Abakendi in the Mike Figgis-directed film, The Browning Version.
In 2008, Alexander appeared with Ben Whishaw (Brideshead Revisited) in the first series of Criminal Justice. Then, in 2009, with David Tennant (Doctor Who) and Patrick Stewart (Star Trek: The Next Generation) in the televised version of Hamlet. Other TV parts have included in Channel 4’s Skins and Doctors for the BBC.
The Bacchae continues at Manchester's Royal Exchange theatre until Saturday, 4 December.
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