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Lysistrata

King's Theatre, Edinburgh
Three stars

When a group of brightly-dressed young women walk onstage with pastily made up faces and microphones in their hands, at first glance you could be forgiven for mistaking them for an X-Factor style girl group, desperately aiming to please. Given that the door they've just walked through is a giant gynaecologically inclined opening of another kind, this is the first hint that things aren't quite what they seem in this riotous new version of ancient Greek comedian Aristophanes' radical sex comedy.

Aristophanes penned his knockabout meditation concerning a sex strike initiated by the women of Athens and Sparta in order to bring about a swift end to the interminable Peloponnesian War in 411 BC. In the hands of the newly inaugurated Attic Collective – a fresh initiative from Festival City Theatres Trust to shake up their programme while giving a year-long opportunity to an ensemble of eighteen young actors – director Susan Worsfold's audacious staging looks eye-brow-raisingly current.

Given that Worsfold's production arrived onstage this weekend on the back of the worldwide Women's Marches, this is even more the case in a seventy-five minute show that gets to grips with radical feminism with an irreverent glee that isn't shy of talking dirty, channelling twenty-first century pop culture as it goes. Pussy Riot and a pneumatic Kardashian who puts out as Reconciliation are all in the mix, and the amount of blow-up rubber phalluses being sported onstage by a chorus of horny but ultimately impotent men in suits suggests that Edinburgh's hen night party shops might be in need of a restock.

With so much going on, this is an understandably messy affair, but the cast, led by Cait Irvine as a commanding Lysistrata and Conor McLeod as the leader of her macho opposition relish in every minute of it. Adam George Butler's Cinesias revels in his limp ridiculousness, while Sally Cairns's Myrrhine and Imogen Reiter's Calonice reclaim their power with unabashed cheek. The thrust, as it were, of the story's modern-day political parallels is made even more explicit by some of the placards on display.

As a statement of intent, the Attic Collective's first outing under Worsfold and creative producer Cat Sheridan's artistic leadership is throwing down the gauntlet and ripping up the rule-book about what can be done by a young company on a big stage. This makes for penetrating stuff on every level.

The Herald, January 30th 2017

ends

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