Saturday, October 18, 2008

Dubya and Dionysos

Lately, I've had Greek drama on the brain.

Tonight I went to see Oliver Stone's film W with an eye on current representations of Iraq and politics in film and theatre. I've seen a number of other shows on the topic: The Vertical Hour and Black Watch come to mind as recent examples on stage. As does Mark Ravenhill's epic cycle of short plays aptly titled Shoot/Get Treasure/Repeat

W, which emphasizes the Oedipal instincts behind Bush, Jr.'s rise to power is sort of a modern-day Oedipus story played as a tragicomedy. There are ha-ha moments of recognition, but mostly because Stone hones his actors in on the truths of their characters. Particularly fine - and notable to one who's viewing the film from a theatrical perspective - are sequences that bring Bush back to the empty ball field of the team he once owned. The crowd is gone, and the balls come flying; his reactions are the variable.

The cast of Hare's Stuff Happens at the Public Theater.

I was struck throughout the film by how many similarities there were between Stone's film and David Hare's 2004 play Stuff Happens. Hare's self-described "history play, which happens to centre on very recent history" also seeks to raise the characters to epic proportions. It's interesting to see how many similar behind-closed-doors moments Hare and Stone have chosen to focus on - particularly the scenes in the White House where the cabinet gathers to discuss politics and pray.

Anyway, I recommend both seeing Stone's film W and reading or seeing Hare's Stuff Happens. Together, they create an interesting dialogue about representations of politics in theatre and film.

After the movie, I finished reading Scotsman David Greig's adaptation of Euripides's The Bacchae as well. The adaptation, which was produced in associate with the National Theatre of Scotland starring Alan Cumming, keeps all of the characters and situations but develops a clarity and fluidity of language that more strict verse translations seem to lose along the way. It's not a modern adaptation per se, but it struck me as more irreverently funny than others like it. I recommend taking a look at Greig's script for a fresh take on The Bacchae, which is a fairly quick, fascinating play to discover.

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