Iphigeneia at Aulis

BATS Theatre, The Dome, 1 Kent Tce, Wellington

28/05/2024 - 01/06/2024

Production Details

By Euripides
Directed by Sophie Helm
Produced and translated by James Parrott and Alex Davey.
Choreography by Elora Battah
Composed and Musical Directed by Nate Smyth

Victoria Ancient Theatre Society

Embark on a journey through Ancient Greece with The Victoria Ancient Theatre Society’s 10-year anniversary celebration, featuring Iphigeneia at Aulis.

This Greek tragedy follows the story of King Agamemnon as he is faced with the devastating decision to either sacrifice his own daughter, Iphigeneia, for the greater good of his nation, or risk the loss of the Trojan War.

Iphigeneia at Aulis is a gut-wrenching tale of morality, power, and the sacrifices demanded by love and war.

28th May – 1st June 6pm, BATS Theatre.


Agamemnon: Lincoln Swinerd
Iphigeneia: Anna Curzon-Hobson
Klytemnestra: Scarlett Rumble
Akhilles: Noah Kaio
Menelaos: Tom Smith
The Servant: Zachary Klein
The Messenger: Rhain Lisk
Chorus Leader: Ava O’Brien
Zenobia (Chorus): Zoe Harris
Kalliope (Chorus): Kathy Keane
Rhea (Chorus): Rosie Mazur
Iris (Chorus): Josie Torrington
Hagios (Musician): Hayden Paul Waller
Kallista (Musician): Cate Sharma

Director: Sophie Helm
Translators/Dramaturgy/Producers: James Parrott & Alex Davey
Stage Manager/Choreographer: Elora Battah
Musical Director/Composer: Nate Smyth
Set Design: Henry Brosnahan & Nathan Arnott
Costume Design: Lillian Graham & Lizzie Bysouth
Sound/Intimacy Advocate: Teddy O’Neill
Lighting: Jenaya Peterson
Publicity: Hellena Faasili
Design: Emily Newenham-Falk

Theatre ,

75 minutes

Draws audience deep into throat-clutching, trancelike territory

Review by Tim Stevenson 29th May 2024

The news out of Wellington has been a tad downbeat recently, which adds a special gloss to this latest offering at BATS, from the Victoria Ancient Theatre Society (VATS). It’s an opportunity to see classical Greek tragedy live on stage – which some people, your reviewer included, welcome.

It’s also a great production in every area you can think of, plus a few you possibly can’t. Your reviewer leaves the theatre feeling as if he’s just come across a trove of hidden treasure when he didn’t even have his metal detector switched on.

The play in question, Euripides’ Iphigeneia at Aulis, has the sort of high-stakes, relentlessly grim story you’d expect of classical Greek tragedy. The setting is the Trojan War which, in case you hadn’t heard, was occasioned by Paris’ elopement with Helen, wife of Menelaos. Menelaos’ brother, King Agamemnon, has gathered a mighty army at Aulis preparatory to retrieving Helen from Troy. However, the seer Calchas tells Agamemnon that if he wants the weather to cooperate, he will have to sacrifice his daughter Iphigeneia to the goddess Artemis.

Agamemnon asks his wife Klytemnestra to send Iphigeneia to Aulis for the sacrifice, using the pretext that she will be married to the hero Akhilles. He then has second thoughts about sacrificing his daughter, just in time for her to arrive closely followed by Klytemnestra. Understandably, they have strong views about the proposed sacrifice, as do Akhilles and Menelaos – and it’s game on.

Put like this, the plot might seem a bit remote – not very relatable, you might say – but once you’ve taken the premise on board, the treatment is brilliant. There’s poetry, evocative description, intense (putting it mildly) psychological conflict, swiftly changing viewpoints, pathos to wring your heart, and as we are regularly reminded, you could hardly set the stakes any higher. Well, I did mention that Euripides wrote it.

This is also a good place to mention that this production uses its own translation, by translators/producers James Parrott and Alex Davey. I’m no judge of translations from the Classical Greek, but this version uses plain, accessible language while conveying the poetry and depth that you’d look for in Classical tragedy. So the script alone puts this production on a special level of awesomeness.

The production is also particularly fortunate in its cast. Lincoln Swinerd as Agamemnon, Zachary Klein as Agamemnon’s servant, Tom Smith as Menelaos, Anna Curzon-Hobson as Iphigeneia, Scarlett Rumble as Klytemnestra, Noah Kaio as Achilles and Rhain Lisk as the messenger all give strong performances and are well up to the demands of their characters.

Special mention goes to Rumble, who practically fizzes with passion whether speaking or not, and makes at least one member of the audience quite sorry for blockish but surprisingly sensitive Agamemnon. The poor guy might be a king, but he is no match for Klytemnestra and has enough self-knowledge to admit it.

Curzon-Hobson’s performance goes through an interesting evolution through the play. It might be me, the script, the acting or a bit of all three, but the character seems somewhat two-dimensional in the beginning, when Iphigeneia is in her “naive girl full of happy expectations” phase. As she comes to terms with her fate, she seems to grow exponentially, until what we see on the stage is that tragic figure, bravely facing up to the terrible exigencies of life, that Euripides might have had in mind when he created her. 

Special special mention goes to the chorus, an important convention of Classical drama that doesn’t always translate well onto the modern stage. This chorus really works: interesting movement and lots of it, beautifully choreographed, takes full advantage of the whole stage, well integrated with the rest of the action. Everyone speaks their lines clearly and with feeling. Your reviewer gets the sense that there were first night nerves on display, but when this chorus grasps how good it can be and starts really engaging with the audience, it has the power to set the stage on fire (metaphorically).

Music (composed for the play by Nate Smyth – more awesomeness), set design (Henry Brosnahan, Nathan Arnott), costumes (Lillian Graham, Lizzie Bysouth, James Parrott, Ava O’Brien) and make up design (Sophie Helm) are excellent in their own right, making this production a feast for the senses.

Overall, the production is tight like a tiger – full credit to direct Sophie Helm for having the vision and skill to bring so much creativity together to achieve a common goal. On the night your reviewer attends, the beginning is a little tentative, but by the end, all the dramatic elements are working powerfully together to draw the audience deep into the throat-clutching, trancelike territory of high tragedy.

P.S. Performances are all sold out, but maybe you can pick up an unused ticket or 2 on the night.


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