Is Yaël Farber Planning to Tear Richard Armitage Apart?

Thanks to @VioletsTFB for sussing out this bit of info at the end of Yaël Farber interview here. I couldn’t get it to stream earlier, so missed this bit.

Odd, because I was just mentioning the myths around this play in reference to another post ( about Michele Forbes, I think).

Yaël Farber’s next project is an adaption of the classic Euripides play,  The Bacchae, to be staged in South Africa. I know this play: it’s sexual, chaotic and violent ( also beautiful)- characteristics shown mostly through women. It’s right up Yaël Farber’s alley, especially as she plans to  reinterpret  it. It’ll be interesting to see how she handles a work that depicts women as the ultimate instrument of violence against men.


The Death of Pentheus – Detail 

I don’t think this is exactly the play alluded to by Richard Armitage when he spoke of working with Farber again, and doing something really old. Yaël Farber has adapted and directed ancient works before, including those by Aeschylus and, more recently, an ancient theme, in Salome.  But if it is an Armitage project, either now or later, then WOW!

Richard Armitage as Pentheus reimagined ( or even as originally imagined) could be something special.

SPOILERS?? All I will say is he dies in the end.

I will leave it to the classicist among us, Obscura to tell us more, if she’s in the mood and keeping in mind that Richard Armitage’s participation may be a long shot.


28 thoughts on “Is Yaël Farber Planning to Tear Richard Armitage Apart?

  1. Wow! Wouldn’t that be great? But, if Yael and RA did work together on this, might he not just as likely be Dionysus as Penteus? Then he can avoid dying yet again.


    • It’s a really good play, and Farber can do much with it, in terms of modifying the story, using movement in a really terrific way. With or without Richard Armitage, this is something I would want to see if I ever had the chance.


  2. Hmmm, although a personal favorite, The Bacchae isn’t the classical drama vehicle I’ve seen Armitage in, but I think he could do quite well as either Pentheus or Dionysus. (I’m holding out for something to do with the Theban Cycle of Sophocles – Oedipus, Creon…hopefully produced somewhat closer to me than South Africa. 🙂 )

    Don’t even get me started on the classical Greeks and their immense fear of women on the loose!


    • Yes, I was hoping for Oedipus since they have both mentioned this play. But, if the play is first staged in S. Africa, it’s likely to move on to London and New York, so don’t give up hope. I wonder what slant she will put on it? I’m sure it will be a sympathetic portrayal of the women. RA said that the play YF hoped to produce had been prompted by ideas in The Crucible: so, religiously oppressed women turn on the men and get the upper hand?


      • Truthfully, I find it really hard to read Euripides as sympathetic to the female condition in any way considering the original context of the plays, so an overtly feminist slant would likely be a dealbreaker for me.
        (Too invested in the original perhaps 😉 )


        • I’ve always thought of Euripides as being more sympathetic towards the struggles of women in a patriarchal society than some of the other Greek playwrights. Some critics see him as a proto feminist, although others disagree. And many of his major roles are given to women, so he is at least very interested in them. Agave, the mother, is handled very sympathetically and the old king, her father, treats her very compassionately as she comes round from her frenzy and slowly realises what she has done. I think you could play the production either way without it seeming that you are somehow twisting the core ideas, in the same way as you can often play it either way with a Shakespeare play. As I’ve said above: it is a bit like The Crucible where the girls set in motion some terrible things but we feel sorry for them, even for Abigail at times, and their lot in an oppressive, man’s world. And, as an aside, someone on Twitter has also just put up a link to an extensive analysis of how The Bacchae and The Master and Margarita (RA’s favourite book?) have many similarities.

          Liked by 1 person

          • I’m quite familiar with the commentary, and I certainly agree that there are plenty of people who read Euripides as feminist leaning in terms of his role assignments, etc. I’m just not one of them…I find many of his female characterizations to be bounded up in cautionary tales that reflect a rather pervasive ancient Greek suspicion and fear of the female. Agree to disagree on this one I think 🙂

            I’ll have to check out that commentary…thanks for the tip.


        • It’s not Euripides who is more sympathetic to women, IMO, ( though he gives them good parts!) – but it is Farber, who has used some works to establish women as victims, and I can see where she might take that turn here. I never was able to see The Crucible’s Abigail as a victim as things developed, and despite some of what Yael Faber said in interviews, I didn’t think she portrayed sympathetically in her version TC at all. She ( Farber) turned Salome around to make her actions against John the Baptist political and in the best interests of society, Miss Julie was already a victim in the original, and I don’t really know whether YF’s adaptation of The Orestia bears much resemblance to the original trilogy, except that it seems to be a revenge play.


          • Just want to add that The Crucible, as Farber staged it, remained true to the text, while the others I mentioned were her own written adaptations – as The Bacchae is also to be.


              • Oops…

                The maleness of the whole ancient theater experience difficult for me to get past with modern interpretations of these plays. That’s not to say it can’t be done, just that the product becomes less attractive to me personally.


              • I’ve been lucky enough to see a number of all-male productions performed by the Cheek by Jowl theatre company in the UK and, I must say, that, to see men playing women adds another level to the plays and you feel the dramatist and the audience appreciate the subtleties. For instance, in a wonderful As You Like It, when Rosalind, disguised as a man, is asked by Orlando to pretend to be a woman so that he can practise his love-making on her, it may be funny when Rosalind is played by a woman, bit it’s even more riotous when she’s played by a man, because you suddenly realise that Shakespeare wrote the dialogue for a man playing a woman playing a man playing a woman.

                In The Bacchae, a modern all-male production would be really interesting, especially when Pentheus is lured into disguising himself as a woman: you get those extra levels again. And if the women are being played by men, does it make the audience question more what is happening to these so-called ‘women’? Do the men in the audience then relate to the opposite sex more or does the drama take over so that they totally forget that they are watching male actors (as, I admit, I always did when I watched Cheek by Jowl – most of the time, anyway).


              • Since Yael Farber’s casting call for The Bacchae indicated she wanted actresses who would be willing to go topless, I don’t think we can look forward to in all male production. LOL.


    • I don’t know why I think of Dionysus as younger and blond, and Pentheus as older. I have no good reason for this. It’s one of my favorites, too. Honestly, I don’t think this is the one he had in mind or that RA is part of it. She likes to go for the classics and tweak them.

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      • I’m honestly a bit concerned about how she might tweak The Bacchae…I’m totally OK with a modern adaptation, I just get worried when “moderns” start tinkering with central themes. Time will tell 🙂


        • I was really worried that she would mess around with TC but she didn’t, unlike van Hove and his current production on Broadway with Ben Wishaw. With YF’s production, there were just subtle hints about oppressed female society – which is in the text and historically true. When I studied the Greek dramatists years ago we were taught that Euripides was sympathetic towards women; nowadays, the critics seem split. It makes me think of productions of The Taming of the Shrew I have seen where, in some, it’s all just a laugh and all that Kate needs is a jolly good **** to make her see sense, but, in others, we see an intelligent, lively woman horribly abused by her husband, family and society. Both meanings can be found in the text, but what did Shakespeare mean? Who knows? Both interpretations are valid and food for thought, as we also find various meanings in the Greek plays.

          Liked by 1 person

          • Absolutely…conversation would be really boring if we all agreed about everything all the time 🙂

            I think that sometimes I have too much context for these plays to connect easily with more universal readings. I read them and I immediately associate with their original socio-cultural context in which they had a particular meaning in a particilar time for a particular audience. That is probably not as much of a problem for modern audiences. I do agree that alternate readings have the potential to provoke really interesting questions about the original text. I’ll be quite interestef to see how Farber adapts the text and to hear her thoughts about the adaptation.

            (Thanks for the lively discussion…I’ve been a very lazy commentor for a while and this has been fun!)


            • Yes, I was about to say thank you for the discussion too. I have followed Perry for a long time but I’m usually too shy to join in, even though I’m rather an opinionated so-and-so. I’ve been drawn in by this one. And, I must say that, although I am aware of the socio-cultural background, I am always fascinated by those great plays which are plays for all time because they are asking the audience serious questions about life, the universe and everything.

              Liked by 1 person

            • I think your interest in/ position on the original context of these plays is what many modern producers are trying to overcome by making them, ahem, more relevant and accessible to modern audiences. Yael Farber aside, because she messes with/adapts the text, there are few opportunities to see classical plays produced, for large audiences, in a similar way to how they were presented originally. I haven’t had the opportunity to see many of that ilk – but I did see what seemed to be a very classic version of Iphigenia at Aulis over 10 years ago ( I can’t find any reference to this on line – a modern version is getting all the press) and I saw Oedipus Rex performed in a very straight-forward manner, I thought, costumes and all – and a classical, but slightly updated version of Frogs ( a huge hit) with Nathan Lane, and I think that’s it, for me, for Greek stuff produced in a classical fashion.

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              • I think the relative dearth is not surprising, but quite unfortunate!

                I think I just had a small epiphany of the concept I’ve been chasing around in my brain. I think the messing around most likely bothers me because as an archaeologist and a teacher of things classical, I’ve come to view these plays in a primarily artifactual rather than literary sense. Thus, in the same way that I would be horrified at an attempt to retool an ancient sculpture or vase to make it relatable to a different population, I think I’m a little prickly about significant retools of these dramatic works.

                Its hard for me to say if the plays need significant adaptation for modern audiences to comprehend them. I’ve only seen Antigone live in a traditional production (in Greek at the ancient theater at Epidauros) and I was profoundly moved by it even when I only understood about every 5Th word…even so I’d read the play and was aware of Sophocles’ intent to explore the subordination of the individual to the demands of the state in the context of crisis. (a theme that is thought to be a connection between Sophocles and Arthur Miller in The Crucible) For a person without that background, it might be a very different play.

                I really do wonder about The Bacchae…Ive always loved it because it is over the top in so many ways…pure Euripides. Of his works, I’ve never thought of this as one as particularly female driven in that the female characters here really seem to become unwitting agents in a pi$$ing match between Pentheus and Dionysus (neither of whom come away looking as very sympathetic characters to me) I haven’t read it in quite a while. I think I will tonight. Maybe I’ll come away with a different impression.


              • My first Greek play was a school trip to see Oedipus at the Cambridge Arts Theatre. They have staged a play every year with the undergraduates in the original Greek and in classical form since 1882 and famous students who have performed there include James Mason and Tom Hiddleston. I remember wishing that I could have understood what they were saying. More recent productions have been ‘updated’ by professional directors but are still in Greek. Like you, Perry, I have also seen a reasonably straight ‘Frogs’ which was hilarious. Humour never seems to change, although wasn’t the Nathan Lane thing some kind of adapted musical?


  3. Wow. I confess no familiarity with The Bacchae, but a quick wikipedia read gave me the broad outlines. I’d love to see RA unleashed in the Dionysus role. Chaos, violence, wild sensuality… =)


  4. Dionysus and Pentheus are cousins, so perhaps about the same age. My fantasy is for him to play *both* roles. But that could only happen on film. This looks like a great project, whether or not he’s in it.

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