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Q Theatre, Auckland, New Zealand
30 July-29 August 2015

Presented by Auckland Theatre Company
Written by Aristophanes; adapted and directed by Michael Hurst

  Amanda Billing  
General Praxis
  Andrew Grainger
  Jennifer Ward-Lealand  
  Peter Hayden
  Sia Trokenheim  
  Paul Glover
  Fasitua Amosa  
  Cameron Rohdes


  Lucinda Hare  
  Darien Takle
  Hannah Tasker-Poland  
  Nomi Cohen
  Michael Hurst  
Set Designer
  Rachael Walker
  Shona McCullagh  
Costume Designer
  Troy Garton
Musical Director/Composer
  John Gibson  
Lighting Designer
  Sean Lynch

This short video includes glimpses of the play.

In this longer interview, Michael talks about tragedy in general, Greek tragedy and Lysistrata in particular - and Edward Albee's The Goat.

Director's Notes

The comic and absurd device of the sex strike in Lysistrata drives the plot and provides endless opportunities for humour.  But it isn't the most absurd thing in the play.  If we look at a modern woman in the western world - a woman who can vote, own property, marry or not, have children or not, receive an education, take on leadership roles, earn money, be independent and have a voice - then it is clear that, in terms of the ancient Greeks, we are not looking at a woman at all, but a man: a citizen. Apart from some religious responsibilities, women in ancient Athens were generally invisible, and the thought that they might band together and actually take over the running of the state was as ludicrous as, say, flying to the moon in a basket. Here is the truly absurd notion of the play, and here is the device by which Aristophanes is able to focus our attention on his real purpose - a plea for common sense in the face of ruinous conflict.  Lysistrata's famous 'weaving' speech in which she links good government to the weaving of a "democratic cloak for us all" is at the heart of the play.  Here Aristophanes, via his heroine, asks for partnership, reconciliation, and the end of corruption: a new deal, in fact.  At its broadest interpretation, this is "make love, not war".

Great works of literature speak to us because they successfully hold Shakespeare's "mirror up to nature", mining those universal aspects of humanity that underpin society no matter what age we are in.  This tension between how similar to and, simultaneously, how different from us the Greeks were, allows us to have a lively and meaningful conversation with their world across more than two millenia.  In Lysistrata, the jokes are still funny, the characters are recognizable, common sense is still not as common as we might suppose, and politicians are still in the firing line.

We have taken some liberties with the text; we have thrown it around a bit, we have modernized some of the language and we have added some earlier material from the lyric poets Archilochos, Sappho and Alcman, who wrote during the 7th Century B.C.  In the main this follows the fascination with (and anxiety about) the power of Eros, desire, and ungovernable force that can loosen limbs and cause the kind of irrational behavior that the Greeks were at pains to control, and that Lysistrata unleashes when she persuades her friends to withhold sex from their partners.

John Gibson has written some glorious music for the production - music that, to me, feels both ancient and modern, and absolutely places us in both of those worlds. We have loved responding to this, and Shona McCullagh has made some stunning choreography that again reinforces the idea that we are still human, we can still laugh at ourselves and that truth is beauty, beauty is truth.

The production is full of joy and we have had a joyous time rehearsing it.  It is pagan, modern, provocative, naughty, uplifting, problematic, funny and moving.  I hope you find it so.

 - Michael Hurst

Darien Takle, Nomi Cohen, Jennifer Ward-lealand, Sia Trokenheim, Amanda Billing, Lucinda Hare, Hannah Tasker-Poland

Darien Takle, Peter Hayden

Carmeron Rhodes, Andrew Grainger, Paul Glover, Fasitua Amosa

Reviews of Lysistrata

Metro: "This Hurstified Lysistrata is virile, cheeky, over-the-top, and completely delivers on its promise of entertainment.  The most fun you can have in a theatre this winter".

Theatreview: "Hurst has, in his inimitable style, grabbed Aristophanes' play firmly by the goolies and given it a thoroughly good shake up and this modern treatment really works. ... Hurst's production ... edges into the domain of the satyr play as well and, believe me, this is no bad thing".

Theatre Scenes:  "if there is one person in New Zealand to not only direct, but adapt, such comedy for the 21st century, it is the ever humorous Michael Hurst. ... With a play this absurd and heightened in both its genre and artistic heritage, Hurst stamps the production with his signature comedic and highly stylised direction. ... It is moments like these that remind us of the communal nature of theatre, the sharing of ideas through entertainment, that sits at the heart of Hurst's production."

NZ Herald: "Twist on ancient Greek play brilliantly evokes girl-power comedy's earthy bawdiness ... Michael Hurst's racy adaptation is true to the spirit of the play ... The superb 13-member cast throw themselves into the robustly physical staging as they prance and cavort in various stages of undress".

Lumiere Reader:  "with a classical Greek comedy like Lysistrata, so rooted in its own period, an intelligent adaptation is a necessary ingredient for success. In the hands of Michael Hurst, this is achieved with impressive clarity, displaying not only a deep understanding of the classics but a devilish sense of humour too. This is as much Hurst's plays as it is Aristophanes's ... Go see it. The classics don't get much more accessible than this.".

What's Good Blog:  "Michael Hurst has created a production that is completely modern, true to its 2400-year-old roots, and above all, hootingly funny. ... This is a life-enhancing communion of a theatre production, lively and full of love and laughter, and we didn't want it to end".

Gather & Hunt: "Lysistrata is as complex, funny and vicious as life ... In this production, Hurst and company have crafted a beautiful, rampant, complex statement on our times using the seemingly immortal words and thoughts of a man born so long ago".