Laughter from Hades: Aristophanic Voice Today

Ifigenija Radulović, Ismene Helen Rantoulovits Petkovits


The current Greek political situation again brings to light, and on stage, many ancient dramas. Contemporary Greek theatre professionals, not turning a blind eye to reality, have come up with ‘the revival’ of old texts, staging them in new circumstances. Aristophaniad is an original play with a subversive content inspired by Aristophanes and a contemporary street graffito reflecting contemporary Athenian life. It is a mixture of various comic and other dramatic elements, such as ancient comedy, grotesque, pantomime, musical, ballet, opera, standup, even circus. Additionally, staging methods developed by the Greek director, Karolos Koun (1908-1987) are also evident in the production. Idea Theatre Company, exploiting excerpts from Aristophanes’ plays and starring the comediographer himself, manages to depict a fictional and real world in one. The performance starts with the rehearsal of Aristophanes’ new play, Poverty, which is in danger of being left unfinished since Hades plans to take Aristophanes to the Underworld. The play ends with Plutus. In the meantime, the performance entertains its audience, leading them to experience Aristotelian catharsis through laughter. This collective ‘purification’ of the soul is supposed to be mediated by laughter and provoked by references to serious life issues, given in comic mode and through a vast range of human emotions. The article deals with those comic features and supports the thesis that in spite of the fact that times change, people never cease to fight for a better society. Ifigenija Radulović is an associate professor of Classics in the Faculty of Philosophy at the University of Novi Sad. She deals with the reception of Antiquity in different historical periods and with ancient Greek rhetoric and drama as historical sources. Ismene Helen Radoulovits Petkovits holds a BA in English, MA in Greek Philology and is writing a PhD thesis in Comparative Literature at the National and Kapodistrian University of Athens. She translates from Greek/English into Serbian and Croatian and vice-versa, and collaborates with many Greek and Serbian Theatres on modern adaptations of the classical repertoire.

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