“Lysistrata” serves laughs and youthful energy mixed with the bitter reality of NHS student life. The young cast delivers a relatable, but rather flat narrative while having some serious fun on stage. Come for the laughs, but don’t expect a narrative with a deeper meaning.
The original Greek comedy, “Lysistrata” tells a story of a protest that is organised to end the Peloponnesian War. The simple concept of denying sex to men causes the inflammation of the battle between the sexes but eventually leads to a truce.
In Lyric Hammersmith’s production of “Lysistrata”, or rather a modern retelling of the ancient comedy: the medical students working in an STI clinic stage a protest against the government student salary cuts. But even though – just like in Greece- the whole plot it’s strongly connected to sex (this time, more related to the clinic that heals the STIs), but this time… Nobody on the outside cares about the protest. What an irony.
The show had a slow start for me. For the first couple of scenes, I was wondering what the performance will eventually be about – many characters were introduced, but the pace was slow, with the first hint of action coming into play after a long while. Later on, the show speeds up and throws a fun twist into the script – but all in all, I had a feeling it was just not balanced as a whole.
The production features some talented young actors, however, only two get a true possibility to shine here (mostly due to the script which doesn’t leave the rest of the cast with much of emotions to play with). The cast consisted of trainees of Springboard – a two-year training programme providing unrivalled theatre-based training and development opportunities to nurture the next generation of performers from socio-economically disadvantaged backgrounds and groups underrepresented in theatre. I felt so much energy and excitement from each member of the cast on stage. I quietly wished the opportunities in the production were divided more equally, just to see more of them present their full acting skills repertoire.
Sam Purkis plays the prime minister’s son who comes to the clinic with a small “problem”. The performance carries some strong inspiration hints of “My father will hear about this” Draco Malfoy – from ice cold attitude, through his annoyance with the “common folk” and his entitlement which oozes out even through his eyes. Fantastic start of a hopefully long and successful acting career!
Chanel Fernandes, in the role of Lysistrata, gets a fantastic opportunity to show off a full mental breakdown – and she makes it as enjoyable to watch, as a mental breakdown can be. Her role, written with a deeper story than others, gives her a chance to shine as a mature, talented actor, and Fernandes makes her best to use this opportunity to its maximum. She delivers an excellent showcase of emotions, which balances out the play’s otherwise comedic theme.
What I had issues with was the script – mostly a realistic comedy, but at times for some reason including silly slapstick humour which just didn’t sit well for me in this case. Especially in cases of the group scenes of the “choir” of students, the staging was pushed into the idea of “ok, we kept it serious for the past 5 min, we need to throw some funny comment in, quickly”.
I also wished there was a little more chance given to the rest of the cast to deliver something more “meaty” rather than just casual student conversations and jokes.
The ending was open and gave me hope for another, longer and slightly more polished version of the show. If it ever got produced, I’d love to be there and see how it evolved! But for now, 4 stars.
Lyisistrata, at Lyric Hammermith Theatre
Written by Sophie Ellerby
Directed by Diyan Zora
Set and costume design by Alys Whitehead
Lighting design by George Ogilvie
Sound design and composition by Russell Ditchfield