Cyprus Mail

Love, power and betrayal

By Alix Norman

Few places in the world are more fitting than Cyprus for the spectacular event beginning this week: the 18th International Festival of Ancient Greek Drama. A series of performances of the best that this significant – and geographically relevant – genre has to offer, the festival will be staged in various open-air amphitheatres around the island, with performances by a number of international companies.

Collectively, Aeschylus, Sophocles, Euripides, Aristophanes and Menander are the five writers who have affected every aspect of the dramatic arts. And (with the exception of Menander, whose work has been mostly lost and is known in modernity in a highly fragmentary form) their common themes of love, power, revenge, betrayal and sacrifice will no doubt ensure each of the festival performances are just as relevant today.

This year’s performances – many of which are original in their approach, while still bearing the intense colouring of the culture from which they derive – are all included in the official events programme of the ‘European Capital of Culture – Pafos 2017’.

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Aristophanes’ comedy, Lysistrata

With its continued aim of supporting Cypriot creators while maintaining a constant constructive dialogue with other countries, organisers promise “a multicultural programme with moments of thrill, pathos and merriment”, revealing that all performances have been chosen for “the originality of their approach, preserving the uniqueness of ancient Greek drama, while also bearing the distinctive cultural traits of the country from which they came, offering the public a multicultural entertainment of high aesthetic standards”.

This year, the varied programme promises an exhilarating few days as performers from Croatia and Slovenia, Belgium, Italy, Greece and Cyprus delight with their modern-day renditions of these remarkable classics, presented in three historically appropriate venues: the Paphos Ancient Odeon, the Curium Ancient Theatre and the Makarios III Amphitheatre in Nicosia.

Opening in Paphos with Euripides’ Medea – a story of love, envy, greed for fame and revenge – on July 4, the festival then moves to the capital, with the same performance taking place on July 6 at the Makarios III Amphitheatre. July 8, 11 and 12 sees Sophocles’ tragedy Philoctetes performed at all three venues in turn, closely followed on July 13 and 14 by Aristophanes’ popular comedy, Lysistrata, staged at Curium. And it’s worth noting that the same play will also be appearing at the Archontiko of Axiothea on July 7 and 8 in memory of the Cypriot poet Costas Montis, whose translation of the work into the Cypriot dialect will be performed by THEPAK.

Aeschylus’ tragedies of The Oresteia trilogy, The Libation Bearers and The Eumenides, will be staged in Nicosia and Paphos on July 18 and 19, while July 21 (Makarios III) and July 22 (Curium) bring us a faithful take on Oedipus. And last but not least is a rendition of Euripides’ tragedy Alcestis on July 25, 27 and 28 at all three venues, bringing the festivities to a close for another year.

There’s little excuse for the failure to catch at least one of the performances, and if there’s any other incentive needed, consider the ticket price: true to their ideals of presenting works that underline the uniqueness of ancient drama and promote quality theatre, this year the organisers have ensured that the festival is universally accessible, taking into account the current financial circumstances and “significantly reducing the price of entry, with the goal of offering theatre-lovers the opportunity to see more performances”.

At a mere €10 (€5 for students, senior citizens and the National Guard), ticket costs are certainly far from prohibitive, allowing each and every one of us the chance to see these spectacular and emotionally charged enactments in three of the island’s most beautiful venues. And with all foreign language performances surtitled in both English and Greek, there’s simply no excuse, whatever your nationality. Make a date with your diary this week, and ensure you catch at least one of these productions – the plays that launched our fascination with drama.


8th International Festival of Ancient Greek Drama

July 4 to July 28, at the Paphos Ancient Odeon, the Curium Ancient Theatre and the Makarios III Amphitheatre in Nicosia. All performances begin at 9pm. Tickets cost €10 (€5 for students, senior citizens and the National Guard) and are available at the SoEasy Kiosks in all cities, the Time Out kiosk in Paphos, the Xenion High School in Paralimni and online For further information call 7000 2414 or visit All foreign language performances will be surtitled in English and Greek. All Greek performances will have English surtitles. The performance Philoctetes will be also surtitled in Russian.

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