Euripides’ BAKKHAI: A new version by Anne Carson

(Courtesy of York University)

From Nov. 18 – 25, Theatre @ York presents Anne Carson’s version of Euripides’ play Bakkhai. Produced and designed by theatre production and design students, this performance will be held in the Joseph G. Green Theatre.

“I’ve been working as a theatre artist for over 30 years, both as an actor and director, mostly in Canada but a few years in the UK too. I love theatre. All kinds. Though maybe I gravitate towards plays with rich language, complex politics, a sense of humour, and a certain theatricality,” shares David Jansen, theatre professor and director of this production.

Bakkhai is revered as one of Euripedes’ most revolutionary plays, and this new version by Carson explores the ways in which classical Greek plays can be presented to modern audiences.

“Anne Carson is one of the greatest poets of our time, a renowned professor and a peerless translator of ancient Greek,” shares Jansen. “Her writing is both lyrical and shot through with the sound of contemporary speech. For me, classic Greek plays like Bakkhai require translations that honour the original text yet feel forged for today. So, I don’t think she’s really adapted the play. Rather, she’s listening closely to it and [to] Euripides, unafraid to respond in a direct, personal way. She’s true to the text but she’s not reverent or artistically self-effacing. She is co-authoring the play.”

For Rick Karwal, a fourth-year acting student, his experience being a part of Bakkhai has been exceptionally exciting, as it is the first full-scale professional production that he has been involved in.

“What has been most rewarding about this process as well as playing the herdsman has been the ability to tell a divine story. Along with storytelling, it has been very rewarding to see the story arch in multiple perspectives as my character goes on a deep ritualistic journey of his own,” says Karwal.

Irfan Sulemen, a fourth-year acting student, shares these sentiments: “I feel ‘full’ in every sense as a result of the work that has been poured into this production by my fellow actors, directors, and the crew. To have had the opportunity to be a part of history in bringing this ancient story about the interplay of the primordial elements of our world (chaos and order) to life for fresh and eager eyes has been and will continue to be incredibly rewarding as we move into performance week.”

Jansen further comments that “the play can’t be contained. Just when you think you know what a given moment means, pretty soon you’re upended. Dionysus calls himself the ‘god of the intensities of terror, the god of the gentlest human peace.’ That contradiction informs the whole production.”

To learn more about this production and to purchase tickets, click here.

About the Author

By Sydney Ewert

Arts Editor

Sydney is in her third year at York University studying Dance. She loves to travel and explore new places. When Sydney is not editing, working, or studying for her classes, she is likely going for walks or learning new recipes.


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