Financial markets are crashing and the female stallholders of Europe, corralled by Lysistrata, have had enough. It’s time to knock some sense into the male bankers, politicians and lawyers responsible. And how to do that? Withhold sex.
It’s tough not to sound humourless criticising this twenty-first-century update of Aristophanes’s Ancient Greek battle-of-the-sexes comedy. Anastasia Revi’s production bursts with life and colour, and the large ensemble cast – particularly the seven women – have bucketloads of chemistry and great comic timing. There’s also some genuinely funny play with post-crash national stereotypes, as the stallholders nervously await the arrival of their German comrade.
But Theatre Lab’s experiment in grafting Ancient Greece’s sexual codes straight onto gender relations in modern Europe doesn’t really work. What once seemed subversive of patriarchal society, just feels crass and old-fashioned here.
The script pays lip-service to empowerment, with talk of female Occupy movements and computer hackers. But among the women actually on stage, only Lysistrata doesn’t come across as a sex-starved nymphomaniac. The joke quickly wears thin.
Maybe this wouldn’t jar as much if the play didn’t keep trying to make serious points. As it stands, a very literal song and dance about balls of wool (a metaphor for economic unity) just highlights this production’s shortcomings. Tom Wicker