Greig’s Suppliant Women premieres at Royal Lyceum

David Greig, Artistic Director of The Lyceum
David Greig, Artistic Director of The Lyceum
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IT’S a case of back to the future when the Royal Lyceum Theatre Company unveil David Greig’s first main stage production under his tenure as artistic director.

The company will present the world premiere of The Suppliant Women, adapted by Greig from one of the world’s oldest plays, The Suppliants, by Aeschylus, which was first performed around 470BC.

Community chorus members rehearse The Suppliant Women, at the Royal Lyceum Pic: Alan McCredie

Community chorus members rehearse The Suppliant Women, at the Royal Lyceum Pic: Alan McCredie

Director Ramin Gray said: “As a director who has spent a lifetime on contemporary plays, it’s a palpable thrill to reach 2479 years back to the origin of theatre.

“Aeschylus surprises, stretches and moves me. It feels wonderful to have discovered a new colleague in such an old place and I can’t wait to share the piece with audiences.”

Co-produced with the Actors Touring Company, The Suppliant Women tells the story of the daughters of Danaos, twin brother of Aegyptus, a mythical king of Egypt.

Faced with forced marriage to their Egyptian cousins, the women flee, entreating a distant King to protect them.

When he does, Danaos rejoices at the outcome and the women praise the Greek gods, however, almost immediately, an Egyptian herald comes to force them to fulfil their destiny.

Greig said: “The Suppliant Women contains the birth of drama, and the birth the democracy.

“Its central questions – about refugees, women’s rights, war and sex – feel so extraordinarily pertinent today.”

The production stars operatic baritone Omar Ebrahim as Danaos, Edward Sayer as the King who decides the women’s fate, and Gemma May, as the Chorus Leader.

All are joined by a chorus of locals in the title roles.

Using the techniques of Ancient Greek theatre, a community chorus of Edinburgh women has been recruited by the Lyceum and trained to take to the stage by award-winning composer Stephen Deazley.

Greig said: “Working on the text has been one of the biggest challenges of my writing life, but the biggest thrill has been witnessing the passion, bravery and commitment of our chorus, the 30 young women who have given their time to learn and sing the extraordinary role of the Suppliants.”

A role he reiterates remains relevant to society today.

He said: “This autumn, as Europe and the Middle East are tossed on a sea of troubles, The Suppliant Women feels like some ancient, burnished bronze mirror, freshly dug out of the ground, in which we shudder to see ourselves reflected.”

An aulos, a Greco-Roman double-pipe reed instrument that hasn’t been heard in the theatre for more than 2,000 years, will also be used to help set the atmosphere.

The Suppliant Women is at the Lyceum from October 1-15.

lrudden@edinburghnews.com