Lysistrata

The Sanford Collective performed Lysistrata a few years ago. Triggered by some ‘university challenge’, here are some of my impressions, thoughts, feelings about the play.

How did you feel about the role(s) of the women in the play? How about the men? Did it open your eyes to women’s lives in Ancient Greece? Did the fact that it was a comedy and quite obviously fantastical enhance or devalue the «message»? Did it have a «message»?

The play was an echo of the historical situation of the time, a few hundred years BC. There was a long lasting war going on at the time and the population was truly fed up with the war. The play was a clever yet simplified way to vent out the frustration of it through comedy, and an imaginative proposition of a quick way out of it.

It strucked me how oversimplified the political situation was (let’s just make the men make peace by withdrawing sex from their marital lives – and it worked!) and also how women, or just a playwrite, were allowed and accepted to openly talk about sex.

It is very possible that it was the roughly seventeen-or-so centuries of powerful church censorship/taboo-making pretty much all over Europe, that made that opennes so striking.

I personally found the idea of sexual blackmail silly. However, I have never felt ‘that’ fed up with a war, or in a position to influence the people (men) who make the actual decisions to such an extent. But still, I fint it too simplistic an attitude.

And as the play almost proved, such a collective action is kind of impossible, because of course every one wants to have sex with their beloved, and there will always be some one prepared to betray the cause which will of course spoil the whole operation.

The men’s attitude was more believable, belittling the women, disregarding their opinions, and of course pursuing war above all reasonable reasoning. And then succumbing to the blackmail, because as we all «know», men only think of sex.

Actually now writing about it it is again surprising that all those centuries ago (25?) the sex-related stereotype was so similar to what we are used to now.

Somehow the war-related stereotype was not so much a surprise; after just a few years of compulsory study of history in primary and secondary school, I completely agreed with my last History teacher that things, dynamics, relationships and wars among human beings have not changed a bit in 25 or so centuries of written history. We have only made things more complicated.

I am not sure if the play opened my eyes to women’s lives in Ancient Greece. On one hand this play tells us that in Ancient Greece it was as socially acceptable for women to openly talk about sex. On the other hand, we’re told that in those days mainstream society (as in, public and respectable men?) considered homosexual love among men the purest and noblest of love relationship and heterosexual love was kind of second class. I am not sure if both views are compatible.

I learned when researching that the play had been chosen as artistic expression of the anti-war sentiment just post 9/11. «No war!», says the main character at one point, as part of a strong point («that’s what we want, no war»).

There were good points about the women having to stay at home while the men fight… I have seen better diatribes about wars being endured a lot more by the women staying at home looking after the rest of the family than by the men fighting in the front, but the they were not comedies like this one is. Maybe I know too much about war to enjoy/accept comedies about it. For me the «message», if it carries one, was not about war. For me it was a story about a section of the population, less powerful than the other, waving another war, with the one weapon they thought would be powerful enough, and winning. In an unrealistic way.

No, I can not praise the play as any more than good comedy, made even better but some brilliant performances. But then again, thanks to the sex issue and the war theme, it deserves a lot of credit for being so surprisingly apt to get to modern days hearts, more than two thousand years later, at least with the translation we used.