If you, like me, are passionate about history and theatre, then you really must visit the Rose Playhouse. Bankside’s first Tudor theatre was re-discovered in 1989 and is now hosting plays, as it did over 400 years ago. The stage area used for productions is built over the partially excavated site and is so close to the audience that the experience of watching a play here is very intense.
Wolfgang von Goethe’s version of Iphigenia is quite different from Euripides’ original; there is no chorus, leaving Iphigenia as the only woman in the play. This version also differs from the original, in showing how virtuous behaviour and truth will triumph over evil and deceit.
Iphigenia, daughter of the Greek king Agamemnon, is in exile in Tauris, serving as priestess in the temple of Diana. Over her many years of service she has persuaded King Thaos to abandon the practice of sacrificing stranded strangers. Following the death of his son, King Thoas asks Iphigenia to marry him but her rejection of him makes him reconsider his decision. Iphigenia longs to return home, especially when two shipwrecked strangers turn out to be her brother Orestes and his friend Pylades. Orestes is being plagued by the furies as punishment for the vengeful killing of his mother. Orestes tries to persuade Iphigenia to betray Thoas and flee Tauris with them. She is torn between her love for her brother and the king who has kept her safe for many years. She has to decide what to do as she tries to throw off the ancient curse of the Tantalid race. It is inspiring to see a woman, who in other stories is sacrificed so that her father can be victorious, using her courage and strength of character to resolve the situation to everyone’s satisfaction.
James Barnes and Alec Bennie are impressive as King Thoas and his liegeman Arkas but Suzanne Marie commands the performance in the extremely demanding role of Iphigenia.
This is an inspiring and uplifting play and I recommend you go to see it and help the Rose Playhouse raise the money it needs to continue the important excavation of its site.
Review by Sally Knipe
A masterful play about loyalty, sacrifice and the power of the female voice.
Director Pamela Schermann, whose productions at The Rose Playhouse include The Taming of the Shrew, Orpheus and Eurydice and Othello, directs (Hon) Artistic Associate of The Rose, Suzanne Marie, in a new production of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s Iphigenia in Tauris. The play, which is based on the Greek tragedy by Euripides, tells the story of Iphigenia and the curse of the Tantalid family. The daughter of Agamemnon is in exile in Tauris, where she serves as priestess in the temple of Diana. Longing to return to her home country, she needs to make a crucial decision when her brother Orestes and his friend Pylades arrive at the island.
The play examines how ideals can be corrupted and how a woman torn between hesitance and action can overcome discord. “Iphigenia finds herself in the middle of four powerful forces – similar to the four elements fire, water, earth and air, which served as my inspiration“, says Schermann. “King Thoas asks her to become his wife, and Arkas supports the suit of his king by reminding her of the duties she owes to the man who gave her shelter on Tauris. Iphigenia’s brother Orestes and his friend Pylades require her help to escape from Tauris. Each force fights for their cause, which they believe is the only right way. But Iphigenia realises that this conflict as well as her family curse can only be solved if people have the courage to tell the truth, rather than fighting and deceiving each other. The Theory of the Balance between the Elements is part of many religions and cultures, and I think it can also serve as a universal message: Every human being is different in their nature, culture and beliefs, but the world will only continue to exist if we find a way to live together peacefully despite our different positions and demands.“
THE ROSE PLAYHOUSE The indoor archaeological site hosts award-winning productions and tells the visitors much about its life between 1587 and 1605. Since its re-discovery in 1989, the site of Bankside’s first theatre has inspired artists and audiences alike just as it did over 400 years ago. The viewing platform above the partially excavated site serves not only as the stage area for the performances, but also allows the visitors to look down at the site, where red rope lights indicate the archaeology of the historic Rose Playhouse below. The ruins are currently hidden under a layer of sand and water, which helps conserve them. After being awarded a Development Grant from The Heritage Lottery Fund in 2012, plans are underway to fully excavate the site and put it on permanent display.
CAST Suzanne Marie, Ben Hale, James Barnes, Andrew Strafford-Baker and Alec Bennie.
CREATIVES AND TEAM Pamela Schermann (director), Annegret Märten (dramaturge), Gillian Steventon (costume designer), Petr Vocka (lighting designer), Philip Matejtschuk (sound designer), Theresa Schwarzkopf (Stage manager), Armi Utriainen (production assistant).
PRODUCER The Rose Playhouse
This translation of Goethe’s Iphigenie auf Tauris Copyright © Estate of Roy Pascal.
The Rose Playhouse, Bankside (56 Park Street, London SE1 9AR)
16th June – 4th July 2015, Tues – Sat 7.30pm, Sun 3pm only
Box office: 020 7261 9565, firstname.lastname@example.org
Friday 19th June 2015