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The Bacchae

17 October 2020 @ 7.00 pm - 9.00 pm


Now this sounds interesting — a new company with a new contemporary adaptation of The Bacchae, playing online as a premiere and thereafter as an episodic podcast.

Euripides’ Greek tragedy has been realised as an immersive online “sonic theatre” experience, developed by a new company (Exit 11 Performing Arts, backed by NYUAD Arts Center with this project also supported by the Jameel) as “a new way of creating theatre and liveness across borders” – The Bacchae was developed remotely during the pandemic with artists in nine different time zones across seven countries.

An audio adaptation with original music sounds like it would suit The Bacchae. Widely regarded as one of the greatest ever plays, let alone  Greek tragedies, it’s ripe for reinterpretation and has been reworked in dozens of ways over the years.

The story is loaded with philosophical musing (instinct vs order, primal nature vs civilisation), psychological contrasts (ditto, but at the personal level), contemporary issues (the power dynamics of gender, the political asymmetries of society), and the essential meat of any drama (what are we here for?) – with a dash of tyranny and liberation, madness and Dionysian ecstasy (lots of that), and ultimately the catharsis that Greek tragedy aims to deliver.

It should suit the audio treatment too. After all, The Bacchae has been realised many times with great success as opera or musical theatre. The original has a chorus commentating on things as they happen, which is an obvious option for music; there’s much ecstatic dancing and generally wild behaviour; and the movement around the city and countryside of Thebes should make for opportunities for effective sonic soundscapes.

This looks like theatre for our times. Exit 11 Performing Arts Company was founded by three NYU Abu Dhabi graduates whose work together has been seen frequently at The Arts Center at NYU Abu Dhabi. Examples include Vitae and Red is the Blood of the People, the latter winning Best Overall Play, at Short+Sweet Abu Dhabi in 2019. The company is now scattered around the world.

he Bacchae plays at 7pm UAE time Saturday 17 October. There will be a post-show Q&A with Joanna Settle, theatre director and Associate Arts Professor of theater (well, it’s an American institution so we’ll go with the American spelling here) at NYU Abu Dhabi. Following the premiere, the production will be released as a podcast series.

Register free to get an access link to the premiere.


17 October 2020
7.00 pm - 9.00 pm
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