BBC Radio 7, 15 March 2009
This retelling of Greek myth had everything going for it - a stellar
cast (the late Paul Scofield, Diana Rigg, Toby Stephens, Chiwetel Ejofor), a top-notch production by Jeremy Mortimer making
use of sound effects - especially when the Chorus was involved - and an epic story involving men, gods, licentiousness and
a liberal sprinkling of epithets.
However the production itself proved boring to listen to. The speeches were declaimed
rather than spoken, investing the action with an unjustified sense of portentousness. This was a Great Play about Great
People. The theme seemed especially suitable for radio: Dionysian power transcended language, being more concerned with a
direct appeal to the senses. However the language kept getting in the way; the characters had too much to say for themselves,
and much of it was written in a banal idiom. On several occasions I wondered why director Mortimer might not have done better
by ditching Rissik's work altogether and turning instead to The Bacchae by Sophocles, where the same story is told
in ritualistic (and rich) detail. The cast did what they could, but the script defeated them.