As we move into the final week of rehearsal for David Greig’s THE BACCHAE I wish rehearsal could go on for longer. This is such a deep piece, as mysterious as the God Dionysos whose story it tells. As I watch runs of the play, I get flashes of extraordinary paradoxes as Pentheus the young and headstrong Prince, terrified of his shadow side collapses with exhaustion at one point refusing to acknowledge that there is any such thing as spirit, refusing to recognise that he is actually sitting next to a deity.
THE BACCHAE really allows us to consider and grapple with the conflicts between the material and the spiritual. Interestingly, as I watch the play, I find myself moving from one protagonist to the other, sympathising first with one and then the other. Ultimately though in the final section of the play we are left with a real woman having to come to terms with a horrible reality. Interestingly the point is made that it is not the wild abandon itself which causes the atrocity but her refusal to acknowledge the God and her subsequent repression of ecstasy. I suppose it is what happens when people get drunk and the demons are released.
What this play is is first and foremost is an experience. It does not feel like a regular play at all to me. It opens your mind and emotions in the way Dionysos says he does himself. Yet it does not do this in any kind of pofaced way. It is both ironic and funny
When I was starting my training in Chekhov Technique, I remember Fern Sloan, one of the foremost Chekhov teachers saying to me, “How could I really use my personal experience to access someone like Medea?”. This is so true. When I consider the dark places to which the Bacchae ultimately travels, to ask anyone, and particularly young actors, to ‘go there’ without effective technique based on body and imagination, is to my mind both dangerous and irresponsible. What the technique brings up, though still profound and deep, is not tapping into the actor’s personal experience directly. Working this way, through body and imagination first to access feelings, qualities and sensations, allows the performer access to that depth without hurting themselves.
Of course this does not mean that actors who use Chekhov do not have to be cautious, and the issue of really shaking out the feelings from the body is a very important part of the work, to cleanse the body.
Check out the promo
https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B-O6Ksjqib_SU3c3NHlQYWdjME0/view?usp=sharingCome and join us in the Bacchic Dance! The play runs from the 14th-18th of February in The Mick Lally Theatre performed by students of the NUI Galway Theatre programme. Tickets are available from Socsbox (091 492852) and Druid ( https://druid.ticketsolve.com/#/shows/ .