Theatre Lab Company have taken Aristophanes' 411BC comedy about a woman's determination to end The Peloponnesian War and dropped it into the centre of the current Euro-crisis. While the bankers and politicians cling to power, Lysistrata mobilises the women of Europe to occupy the financial organisations and force the men to negotiate by withholding sex. As sexual frustration grows on both sides, it becomes a battle of wills - and the sexes - as to who can hold out for what they want.
Already bawdy, under Anastasia Revi's direction Lysistrata's "broad comedy" level is turned up to 11. It's big and brash, without subtlety or nuance, a relentless hammering home of the message about strong women grabbing power from ineffectual men. The women represent the nations of Europe, with Kalonike as a Spanish fruit seller and flamenco dancer, and Lampito a stiffly-dressed German career woman. Add an elderly Italian widow (Strathyllia) and Pitho, a French socialite, and there's the full gamut of stereotypes. Though it's not clear what Irish Nefella (described in the programme as a "wool seller") is representing with her nipple tassles. Lysistrata herself is strongly played by Annabelle Brown in Doc Martens and a Pussy Riot t-shirt.
Daemonia Nymphe's songs aren't particularly memorable but they are sung enthusiastically by all the cast, who also play up the visual comedy with great verve and obvious enjoyment. All the while there is the underlying political message that eventually charges to the fore, that the politicians, bankers and others in charge should stop loving money and promote social cohesion and if they won't, they have to be forced to. It's a utopian ideal that no-one can disagree with, while offering few solutions in how precisely to achieve those ends.
The staging by Maira Vazeou initially puts the women in a market (an all too obvious allusion to the Common Market) until Lysistrata gets them involved in her protest when the action moves to a bare stage for the figurative battle and finally the "everyone lives happily together ever after" dance.
Lysistrata is good unsubtle fun with a universal message played by an exuberant cast.
- Carole Gordon