“At last, a piece of real theatre! Not a monologue that reflects our times, not a live stream, buta physical production put together with heart by a company who knows their text and how to make it sing.“
TAKE ME TO THE UP COMING________
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"A charming and bombastic production."
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"This new production by Thiasos theatre company in a new translationby David Wiles is bouncy, energetic and huge fun."
Wealth was for the Greeks a minor deity associated especially with agricultural produce. In Aristophanes' play however, the figure of Wealth personifies not only goods in kind but also money, which is in a sense abstract. Aristophanes' personification admirably shows the way money has (as Marx and many others have noted) of seeming to acquire a powerful life of its own, as if it is a person rather than a thing. But in contrast to the pessimistic view that money is essentially evil, comic optimism attributes the prosperity of the wicked, and the poverty of the righteous, to curable conditions - the blindness of Wealth and his ignorance of his own immense power. It is the poor citizen Chremylos who has the intelligence to describe this power to him, and who has him cured of blindness. The effect, again, is democratic demystification of money. Whereas wealth includes all good things, money is a single thing - abstract power to command goods and services from others. Hence the differences, brilliantly described by Chremylos, between money and goods in kind: money is a universal means and a universal end, overturns other values (even religion), and inspires unlimited desire. Hence also the logical impossibility, brilliantly described by Poverty, of everyone having a lot of money: who will be left to provide the goods and services? But Poverty is chased out, and the disruptive power of her arguments is neutralised by the happy outcome of the plot. For it is not in fact everyone who benefits from Wealth’s ability to see (the Informer is excluded). The new wealth is described (by Karion) mainly in terms of goods rather than money. And in keeping with the origins of comedy in ritual designed to create abundance for all, Wealth is finally escorted to the civic treasury in the Parthenon.
Aristophanes paints a world in which excesses of fantasy are inseparable from sharp and profound criticisms of social conditions. The elements of fantasy, such as the personification of money, the visits of impoverished gods and the existence of boundless wealth are more vividly portrayed through puppetry than by naturalistic performance. We thus drew on Karaghiozi—a form of shadow puppet theatre which arrived in Greece from Turkey in the 19th century—because it focuses on 'types' and suggests illusion in a way reminiscent of Old Comedy. Though Karaghiozi shares the characteristics with other forms of puppetry, he also embodies a Greek spirit struggling for survival. Hunger is as prevalent in the world of Karaghiozi as in Aristophanes' Wealth. What emerges from hunger and poverty are tricks and stratagems to alleviate them and also fantasies about a world without hunger and a world without the anxieties associated with the distribution of wealth.
Karagiozis became an iconic figure in Greek folklore at the end of the 19th century, a poor Greek peasant with an endless fund of cunning ideas. He maps well onto the protagonist of Aristophanes’ Ploutos, an ancient Greek peasant with a scheme for escaping poverty and creating social justice. Aristophanes is a challenge for the translator. A prose translation risks creating a decorous comedy of manners, and throws up the problem of accent and register: where does the English actor find a voice for a Greek farmer 2400 years ago? Mummerset? Scots? Verse translations tend to fall back on blank verse, burdening themselves with all the Shakespearean and Wordsworthian baggage associated with that form, which for purposes of playwriting had died a theatrical death by the start of the 20th century. I have therefore adopted the language of the traditional English folk play, with its physical energy and forward drive, cemented by short lines, rhyme and a degree of alliteration. Simplification is a good discipline, forcing the translator to locate the underlying story rather than indulge in verbal cleverness. It's a bit like puppetry, which creates its beauty through simplifying the body down to a few fixed elements. Aristophanes’ play is a parable, using a simple situation to raise complex, ultimately unanswerable questions about the nature of a fair and just society. Rather than try to capture all that a given line ‘means’, as I would have to do in a translation made for the scholar, I have kept asking myself, which is the word set up to get the laugh? What is the rhythm of the joke? Aristophanic comedy is rooted in the body, and the actors originally wore grotesque body stockings and (if male) long phalluses. In order for the audience to focus on the physical interaction of these extraordinary archetypal figures as they pursue their self-centred goals, the aim of my text must ultimately be to make itself invisible. Words on stage are always productions of the body. Wlodzimierz Staniewski has written that ‘In the beginning of work on a new performance, the words are… a texture that I touch like a musical instrument. I know that a certain book is important, I know what it says, but I touch the texture of the book to start to dance with it.’ I have created a texture, and look forward to seeing the actors dance.