As the title would suggest, Before Lyistrata by Ellana Costa is a cleverly imagined prequel to famous comedy Aristrophane’s Lysistrata. Aristrophane explored what would happen to the nation if women withheld sex from men in order to stop the war and Costa explores what could push the women to reach this decision. The show is a pastiche of past and present, placing ancient Greek politics in a modern context. It is easy to look at the characters of the show and imagine our own global leaders in their place. Athens and Sparta become a metaphor for the Left and the Right side of politics. It’s a tale which is hundreds of years old yet always seems to hold relevance.
The show follows the experiences of Lysistrata (Michaela Savina) and Lampito (Ellana Costa), the wives of the leaders of Athens and Sparta. Both actresses gave nuanced and moving performances as they showed their characters addressing their countrymen, fighting for power with their husbands and grappling with the realities of war-time. They performed opposite Alex Francis, who played both of the husbands, Pericles and Archidamus. Francis held her own, able to create distinguishable characters which both complimented and challenged the leads. The performances were instrumental to the success of the show- it was refreshing to see women’s stories being told so expertly by women.
The exploration of power struggles often faced by women within personal and professional relationships was interesting, the wives are often ignored and interrupted by their husbands, who have nothing but war on their mind. The escalation of violence was poignant although at times it was heavy-handed and did not fit in with the overall tone of the show.
Overall, the concept of the show was strong. It was a clever of director Saro Lusty-Cavallari to modernise these ideas to tell a story which is so old but now seems so familiar. Projections were instrumental in Cavallari’s vision, which make sense thematically, but were distracting from the performances. The link between the projections and the action on stage wasn’t strong enough to justify the introduction of such a tricky element. The production may have benefitted from allowing the performances to shine through on their own- they were certainly strong enough to carry the show.
Montague Basement present
by Ellana Costa | story by Ellana Costa and Michaela Savina
Directed by Saro Lusty-Cavallari
Venue: Kings Cross Theatre | Level 2, 244-248 William Street, Kings Cross NSW
Dates: 11 – 22 July 2017