By Danielle Farrow
Braindead Theatre’s Lysistrata is an engaging piece, revelling in stereotypes, caricatures and gender twisting without becoming self-indulgent or losing sight of serious issues in Aristophanes’ comedy. This version was adapted by Germaine Greer and Phil Willmott and focuses on questions of gender and armed intervention which are still considerations in the world today.
The plot sees major Greek city states at war and their women, led by Lysistrata, setting about the pursuit of peace in rather a novel manner where, along with taking over the treasury, they refuse to have sex until the war is ended: cue sexual gags, presented here with a light touch and jolly humour.
Men playing women is retained from the Greek all-male original, but in this production women play the male characters, and they do so with masks and any other comically required ‘accoutrements’. Mask speaking is not the easiest performance skill and some lines, along with vocal variation, suffer, with a disappointing ending where, masks off, it was still hard to make out everything being said by the women. This was particularly a pity because they were reflecting on the gender war elements of the play just performed and the irony of its presentation, both of which merit more attention and clarity.
Occasionally there was less wit in the delivery of lines than in the scripting of them, but overall both subtle and slapstick humour shone, with fine use made of the physical differences between these ‘men’ and ‘women’ and of playing up one gender portraying the other. There is a fun soundtrack, including artists such as Elvis, Shania Twain and Beyonce, to accompany physical routines and visible costume changes (even the final bows incorporate direction that deals with the pressure of a quick Fringe turn around) and the audience particularly enjoyed the men in drag, who were kept nicely in check, giving quite believable, as well as comic, performances.
Pace lagged a little partway through, but on the whole Lysistrata kept focus while philosophising, and there was a particularly poignant moment found in the description of brutalisation and loss caused by war. The ending seemed a little sudden, partly because the rhythm and energy of the piece became somewhat uneven, but also partly due to time flying for the proverbial reason: having fun.
Lysistrata – The Sex Strike is enjoyable entertainment, delivered with a certain panache, and it provokes some thought whilst providing plenty of laughs.