at King’s Theatre

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Ambitious but overly juvenile take on Aristophanes’ satirical comedy.

Image of Lysistrata

With the recent ascension of outspoken misogynist Donald Trump to the highest post in world politics, the time has never been riper for satirical commentary on the subject of gender divides and inequality. Attempting to capitalise upon this tension, the Attic Collective adopt Aristophanes’ bawdy comedy Lysistrata for their debut production. Though the timing is right, the execution is unfortunately not quite as impressive.

For those unfamiliar with the source material, the story focuses on the efforts of Ancient Greece’s female contingent as they seek to bring an end to the decades-long Peloponnesian War by depriving their menfolk of all sexual gratification. Though the original play was neither feminist nor pacifist in intent, there is definite scope for a modern interpretation in that vein. Unfortunately, the Attic Collective’s production eschews all such gravitas, making only the most perfunctory and throwaway of nods to the current political and ideological climate.

Instead, the play is more intent on eliciting cheap laughs from its audience via increasingly large inflatable penises, a handful of pop culture references and the most gutter-based jokes imaginable. There are instances where this approach works well, with Mark O’Neill’s nappy-clad baby and Elsa Strachan’s pussy-grabbing gurner providing memorable laughs, while the decision to replace Reconciliation with Kim Kardashian is witty and daft in delightfully equal measure.

Unfortunately, the never-ending stream of smut is not enough to sustain the audience’s enjoyment for the entire duration of the play. The musical interludes initially provide some excellent oomph to proceedings, but the bizarre incorporation of an auto tuner halfway through not only grates on the eardrums, it also makes almost all of the lyricism unintelligible. The final song from Charlie West’s Spartan is a rare instance where the voice modulation is not used and its success is remarkable in contrast.

In terms of acting, the young cast are guilty of overplaying their hand at times, with the girls in danger of over-egging their hammy smugness and the men of too much spluttering incredulity. Despite this, there are glimpses of promising ability, especially from Megan Fraser (Stratyllus), Conor McLeod (the men’s leader) and Adam George Butler (Cinesias). Unfortunately, this talent is often drowned out in the incoherence of the auto tune and the harum-scarum nature of the production’s low-brow gag reel.

For a debut production, Lysistrata is clear proof that the Attic Collective are not shy of taking bold decisions and trying new things. Some work, many don’t – but there are plenty of signs that the company can shine with a little less puerility and a little more polish.