‘Penelope’ in theatre

2017-03-15 06:04
PHOTO: suppliedEurycleia (Holly Armstrong) and Penelope (Nicola Oelofse) in the dance theatre production inspired by The Penelopiad by Margaret Atwood showing at The Theatre — St Anne’s College.

PHOTO: suppliedEurycleia (Holly Armstrong) and Penelope (Nicola Oelofse) in the dance theatre production inspired by The Penelopiad by Margaret Atwood showing at The Theatre — St Anne’s College.

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THE Theatre — St Anne’s College presents Penelope, a dance theatre production inspired by The Penelopiadby Margaret Atwood, directed by Lynn Chemaly and choreography by Bonwa Mbontsi.

The show will take place from Monday, March 20 to Thursday, March 23 at 7.30 pm.

Men document the most powerful ancient stories that have come to us through history.

The Greek classics, brought to us predominantly through accounts by Homer in The Odyssey and The Iliad, recount elaborate tales of resilient heroes, family feuds, tawdry and complex wars, brutal deaths, manipulative and nasty women, mythological creatures and exotic love — by definition, all are a male account.

For Penelope, the wife of Odysseus, running a kingdom for 20 years while her husband is off fighting the Trojan War is not a simple business.

She must bring up her wayward son, face down scandalous rumours and keep more than one hundred lustful, greedy, bloodthirsty suitors at bay.

Atwood, in her novel The Penelopiad, recounts the story of Penelope by giving her an alternative voice as compared to her male-documented history, a voice in stark contrast to the traditional tale. Historically, Penelope is lauded as the essential good woman: the faithful and loyal wife, domestic, pious, humble and resourceful. She is hailed as the example all women should follow.

Atwood, in her retelling, gives us a strongly feminist insight into aspects of Penelope’s life that are unaccounted for. We see the exploitation she suffers as a princess where her value is the sum total of her family’s wealth and position.

We see the extent of her loneliness as she battles to save her home, her son and her people, and the final devastation, brought on by her own husband and son, in their hanging of her 12 maids, whom she has raised as daughters.

The production is presented in the form of dance theatre, where excerpts of Atwood’s writing form the narration of the story, to dance, while her chorus pieces, inter-dispersed, are presented in live action and song by the 12 hanged maids, who comment on the story in relation to their own context and experience.

This contrast in both style and form adds insight and impact to the exposure of women’s experience historically, while highlighting how, and why, these attitudes are still with us today.

Tickets cost R60 per person, concessions is R40. To make a booking, call 033 343 6100 or e-mail twoodgate@stannes.co.za.

— Supplied.

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