Montreal Fringe: Hippolytos
Greek tragedy isn’t really about subtlety. So when I heard about this adaptation of Euripides’ Hippolytos – performed in a club and featuring original techno music – I thought, “Sounds about right.” But while there are some very strong points to this production, tragically – Greek tragically – it doesn’t all mesh as well as it could.
Let’s backtrack a little. The title character and bastard son of Theseus has sworn a vow of chastity, angering the goddess Aphrodite (she doesn’t like to be ignored). To get her revenge, Aphrodite causes Phaedra, Hippolytos’ stepmother, to fall in love with him. Phaedra holds out as long as she can against her feelings, but nobody is stronger than the gods and, well… it all goes South from there.
Aphrodite stands at the centre of this play – it is, after all, about desire, and how badly it can fuck your life up – and she couldn’t be more fittingly portrayed. Connie Lingua brings sensuality and tangible malice to a role with few lines, managing to say quite a bit with some fiery stares as she presides over the play’s action.
Unfortunately, the rest of the performances are so disparate in terms of approach – some over-the-top, others subtle – that the play doesn’t really hang together. This makes it difficult to get caught up in the story, and a two hours, the performance drags on a little.
The musical numbers don’t seem to fit, either, appearing almost out of nowhere and then fading away as fast as they came. While I like the idea of adapting the role of the Chorus so that it’s musical, better integration with the rest of the action would make her periodical visits more enjoyable.
Above all, I think this production is too careful in the way it approached Euripides’ work. Adding a touch more levity – and hacking away a little more at the original script – might bring the spotlight over from the Greek playwright himself to the performers before our eyes.