There seems to be a lot of war around recently.
Oscar Wilde said, ‘the easiest way to end all conflict is to make all war appear ridiculous’. He wasn’t, of course, the first playwright to endorse this opinion.
The Ancient Greeks were regularly ridiculing war and its futility. Comedy was an important part of ancient Greek theatre. No one is quite sure of the origins of comedy, but it is said that they derived from imitation. All comedies of note during this time were by ARISTOPHANES, who competed in the major Athenian festivals, wrote 40 plays, 11 of which survived including Lysistrata – his famous/notorious anti-war farce. His plays include THE FROGS, THE BIRDS and THE WASPS which are regularly performed today. Many of his plays are lost including, tantalisingly, THE FRYING-PAN MEN. More is known about his plays than Aristophanes the man. Often called ‘The Father of Comedy’ he claimed his plays would be better judged by audiences in a future time. His second play THE BABYLONIANS was slated as defamation by the Athenian political elite with whom he was regularly at odds -‘Beneath every stone lurks a politician.’
His plays were bawdy even by today’s standards with erect ‘phalloi’- and disrespectful costumes representing Heroes and the Gods were a regular feature.
LYSISTRATA was first performed in Athens around 411 BC. The plot is simple. Lysistrata, frustrated by the many wars Greece wages, gathers her friends, the feisty Kalonika and the very-married Mirrinie to help organise a National Sex Strike. We’re going to keep our legs firstly closed. No more sex till we have peace! They camp themselves outside the emblematic Acropolis where they bar all entries and erect a ‘desexualised’ picket line. They will join forces with the strapping Spartan Lampito who orchestrates a similar sex-strike in her homeland.
And guess what? Soon all the Athenian and Spartan men agree to stop waging war and now the whole of Greece is replete with sensual activity. The play ends with an Athenian love-in with musical accompaniment, dancing and carnal frolicking.
Our version of Lysistrata, heralded as the filthiest and funniest play in Greek Drama, is now available in paperback on Amazon.