2015-09-15 Bakkhai, London

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(report coming soon)

Bakkhai ticket

Euripides | a new version by Anne Carson
Directed By James Macdonald

It was part of Almeida Theatre – ALMEIDA GREEKS season: ORESTEIA Fri 29 May-Sat 18 July 2015 — BAKKHAI Thu 23 Jul-Sat 19 Sep 2015 MEDEA Fri 25 Sep-Sat 14 Nov 2015

I had great expectations on this play, so it’s hard to write a bad opinion when a production got good elements you should like, but you couldn’t appreciate. But I’ve to be honest writing this report.

Starting from the two main actors, Ben Whishaw, who I greatly admire, and Bertie Carvel, who I wanted to see on stage after the series “Jonathan Strange And Mr Norrell“, then thinking about the singers who played the bakkhai and the story, which is very ancient and seemed interesting, talking about the revenge of a Greek god, apparently I should be engaged but it didn’t happen.

I didn’t see other versions of this play, so I don’t know if it’s this particular production I couldn’t like, or if I’m not much for ancient theatre.

If I think of the other two (much different) plays with Ben Whishaw I saw in London, or other roles he played on screen, I had the impression he didn’t feel the character like in other occasions.

The singers got lovely voices, but the songs were far too long and too frequent along the story. I didn’t feel the appeal nor passion between the god and the bakkhai.

The story turn much grotesque and macabre towards the end.

Anyway, I found interesting some details, the play is rather savage and sometimes ironic, the style of the characters create contrast: Dionysos with long hair and a long shirt, who made him looking much spiritual, like the bakkhai who also had a crown of leaves on their head, while Pentheus and Kadmos were dressed in modern clothes. Bertie Carvel’s Pentheus is masculine and authoritative, but later accepts to pull out his female side dressing like a woman. At the end, who really surprised me was Bertie Carvel for playing a role with two such opposite personalities.

Bakkhai is a play I would hardly see again or maybe I should have given it another chance, who knows...

Notes on the set design

Essential stage design: squared stage, rocks behind where actors walked on, background with a black band below and bricks above.


Pentheus has banned the wild, ritualistic worship of the god Dionysos. A stranger arrives to persuade him to change his mind. Euripides’ electrifying tragedy is a struggle to the death between freedom and restraint, the rational and the irrational, man and god.

Here the cast& crew list with Twitter accounts:

Bertie Carvel (plays Pentheus) who was nice exit in the hall of the Almeida for a quick talk and signed my programme
Amiera Darwish (plays a Bacchant)
Aruhan Galieva (plays a Bacchant)
Eugenia Georgieva (plays a Bacchant) – official site eugeniageorgieva.com
Kaisa Hammarlund (plays a Bacchant)
Kevin Harvey (plays Kadmos)
Helen Hobson (plays a Bacchant)
Hazel Holder (plays a Bacchant)
Melanie La Barrie (plays a Bacchant)
Elinor Lawless (plays a Bacchant)
Catherine May (plays a Bacchant)
Belinda Sykes (plays a Bacchant)
Ben Whishaw (plays Dionysos)

Version Anne Carson
Direction James Macdonald
Design Antony McDonald
Composition Orlando Gough
Light Peter Mumford
Sound Paul Arditti
Choreography Jonathan Burrows
and Gillie Kleiman
Musical Direction
Lindy Tennent-Brown
Casting Anne McNulty CDG
Assistant Direction Jessica Edwards
Costume Supervision Ilona Karas

Almeida Theatre site: almeida.co.uk – Twitter account   – Facebook Page

Press release in pdf