Festival Of Chaos opens with two world premieres of two classic plays, both up-dated and re-imagined and directed by Royal & Derngate's Artistic Director, Laurie Sansom. Staged in the striking setting of a disused print works in the town centre, The Bacchae runs from Friday 18 May to Saturday 30 June and Blood Wedding takes to the Royal stage from Friday 25 May to Saturday 30 June. Festival of Chaos is part of the London 2012 Festival.
A new version of Euripides' Greek tragedy The Bacchae by playwright RosAnna Lowe (Elektra at Cambridge Arts Theatre), takes audiences into the underbelly of a modern city built on money and greed, where a riotous underground world is emerging. Through song and ritual, Dionysus unleashes the sexuality of a cult of female Bacchae, not only to seek revenge on the city above that he thinks has forgotten him, but to remind us that his spirit lies within us all and we ignore him at our peril. This devastating yet surprisingly comic tale plunges audiences into an atmospheric world of dancing, drinking and laughter on the one hand… and murder, violence and retribution on the other. The Bacchae will be performed in the now disused Chronicle & Echo Printing Press Rooms.
Poetry and music combine in a brand new version of Federico García Lorca's haunting masterpiece, Blood Wedding, by Tommy Murphy (Holding The Man – Sydney Opera House and West End). In a close-knit community in rural Spain, a long-term feud between two warring households simmers under the burning sun. A desperate mother reluctantly agrees to her son's choice in bride, but on the day of the wedding her worst fears are realised when the bride disappears with a former lover. The flames of the family feud are re-ignited, and the fleeing couple are cornered in the depths of a mysterious forest.
The Bacchae and Blood Wedding are performed in rotation with the same company of actors - Robert Benfield, Liam Bergin, Donna Berlin, Jim Bywater, Philip Cairns, Rosie Ede, Alicia Davies, Seline Hizli, Ery Nzaramba, Kathryn Pogson and Amanda Wilkin.
Both plays are directed by Royal & Derngate's Artistic Director Laurie Sansom, who was responsible for the award-winning Young America double bill Spring Storm and Beyond the Horizon, which transferred to The National Theatre in London, The Holy Rosenbergs also at the National, The Duchess of Malfi and Eden End at Royal & Derngate and on tour. Associate Director is Neil Bettles (ThickSkin and Frantic Assembly). Both pieces feature original music by Dougal Irvine who is working with Royal & Derngate as part of the Cameron Mackintosh Resident Composer Scheme. Dougal trained at the Royal Court and his first musical, Departure Lounge, won the MTM (Musical Theatre Matters) Award for Best Music for a New Musical and was nominated for Best New Musical in the 2011 WhatsOnStage Awards.
Completing the trilogy of plays that make up of Festival Of Chaos is Ibsen's Hedda Gabler, in a new adaptation by Andrew Upton, Co-Artistic Director of Sydney Theatre Company, which opens in July. All three plays explore a central theme – how deep-rooted desires can often exist in conflict with social conventions and 'expected' standards of behaviour – and explore the forgotten power of Dionysus, inviting him back to tear apart the comfort and conventions of our material world. Played out across the ages, and across continents, the Festival takes us from the birthplace of the Olympics and a money-hungry city increasingly out of touch with its roots through to a claustrophobic 19th Century Scandinavian household via the poverty of rural Spain.
Alongside the three plays; Royal & Derngate's Youth Theatre groups and Actors Company have all taken their inspiration from the Festival's themes and are presenting their own bold re-tellings of some classic tales. The season also features a series of talks before and after certain performances of both plays looking at the legacy of Dionysus and on Midsummer's Eve there will be the opportunity to enjoy a unique storytelling experience, Midsummer Bacchanalia,complete with a spectacular midnight feast.