by Aristophanes

directed by Graham Buchanan

Performed in the Open Air at

Mottisfont Abbey

19th to 29th July 2000 (except Monday 24th)


The private life of this celebrated Athenian comic poet remains elusive.  He was born c.447 BC probably in Athens, although his status as an Athenian was questioned more than once during his lifetime.  His comedy Lysistrata however makes it quite clear that he had a deep love for the city.Comic writing was considered to be a craft, and like other crafts, was handed down from father to son.  Aristophanes’ works are the earliest surviving representatives of the Old Comedy.His own son, Aratos, also became a successful comic poet.

Similarly, very little is known of Aristophanes the man, except that which can be gleaned from his own and other ancient writings.  The Aristophanes who speaks in Plato’s Symposium, although a fictional account probably written after Aristophanes’ death, is quite possibly very close to the real man.  Plato was certainly a close friend of Aristophanes.  However, because of the difficulties of his language and the obscurity of his contemporary references, Aristophanes received little attention in England until the 19th Century.

In a career of some 40 years he had 40 plays produced of which, apart from fragmentary quotations, 11 are extant.  Aristophanes was devoted to the comic theatre which, in 5th Century Athens, was a powerful means of communication of sociopolitical issues.  His lifetime was one of extreme political turbulence and war.

With joyful accuracy, Aristophanes attacked anyone and anything.  Humour is directed not at the system, but principally at the individual operating the system - the gods, politicians, intellectuals, artists, generals and officials.  Real Athenians, particularly leading men of the day, were simply yet vividly parodied and found themselves insulted, ridiculed and vilified along with the everyday Athenian.  On a framework of bold imaginative devices, bawdiness, fantasy and plain-spoken characters, the Aristophanic style ranges from the irreverent to the parodic, to the hauntingly lyrical.

Aristophanes died in 380 BC.


Lysistrata was produced in 411 BC.Athens was in a perilous situation: a messy and confusing war between Athens and Sparta and their respective allies was taking all her resources.Early defeat was a very real possibility.Peace could only come either by Athenian surrender (which was unthinkable) or by a miracle from the world of fantasy - the world in which Aristophanes’ comedy dwells.

In Lysistrata the miracle is made to take place by the women of Greece uniting to force their male governed communities to bury the hatchet and resume the old friendship in which Athens and Sparta had come to each other’s aid in time of need.

The play is built around two separate schemes devised by Lysistrata , and put into effect by different groups of women under her direction, to force male Greece to end the war.  The first is the boycotting of sexual relations.  This campaign is prosecuted by the young married women of Athens and Sparta.  Its prime visible symbol is the erect phallus, which is little used in Aristophanes’ other plays, but which in Lysistrata is worn by every male who comes on the scene, except the Old Men of the Chorus.

Once the sexual strike has been proposed, accepted and sworn to, there is no further explicit reference to it until the second half of the play.  Until then, the action centres on the other scheme: the seizure of the Athenian women of the Acropolis with the object of denying Athens the resources to fight on.It is carried out by the Old Women who cannot take part in the strike since their days of sexual activity are assumed to be over.  Lysistrata is in charge of both schemes and the Acropolis is the headquarters of both.

In Athens, the legendary combat of Greek heroes and Amazons held first place in popularity....the motive of the rebellion of the Amazons was the most prominent expression of men’s fear of women.  Many other myths - as well as drama, the law, and the practices of everyday life - document the same view of women as caged tigers waiting for a chance to break out of their confinement and take revenge on the male world.

The play ends with the successive resolution of both themes, the admission of the men to the Acropolis, not to take out money to be used for war purposes, but to share in a feast of reconciliation, cutting across both political and gender boundaries - being followed by the formal re-pairing of husbands and wives.

[Extracts taken from an introduction by Alan Sommerstein, from the edition of Lysistrata published by Aris and Phillips, and from The Reign of the Phallusby Eva C.Keuls]

Lysistrata Belinda Drew
Calonike Sarah Lynn
Lampito Maria Head
Myrrhine Ametia Morse
Commissioner David Jupp
Kinesias Jim Crane
Spartan Herald Alec Walters
Athenian Women Meri Mackney, Jhassi Eliot, Jennifer Webb, Kate Ward, Claire Carter
Women’s Chorus Brenda Atkinson, Chris Baker, Julie Baker, Julia Jupp, Avril Woodward
Men’s Chorus John Carrington, KenHann, Paul Baker, Bruce Atkinson, Ron Randall
Spartans Ambassadors Ken Spencer, Nial McAuliffe
Zeus Pete Neve
For the Maskers
Director Graham Buchanan
Co-director Ken Han
Stage Manager Helen White
Assistant Stage Manager Emma Carrington
Set Construction Bryan Langford, Douglas Shiell, Cameron Shiell
Lighting Clive Weeks, Nathan Weeks, Barrie Wells
Sound Jim Crane, Lawrie Gee
Wardrobe Gill Buchanan, Kay Hann, Sarah Humphrey
Costume Hire Costume Workshop, Sandown: Bradfield Cottege, Pangbourne
Properties Ella Lockett, Gill Buchanan, Irene Shiell, Kay Hann
Voice Coach Jim Officer
Front of House Manager Ken Spencer
Front of House Staff Manager Julia Jupp
Box Office Manager Sheana Carrington
Publicity/Marketing Jan Ward
Programme Production Sandy White


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