Review of 'Bacchai' by Euripides, National Theatre, London
This astonishing play by the youngest of the three great dramatists of ancient Greece is both very primitive and very modern. The story Euripides took as the basis of his play was a traditional one, well known to its audience. Pentheus, king of Thebes, disguises himself as a woman in order to witness the women-only sacred rites of the followers of the god of wine, Dionysus. Unmasked, he is torn to pieces by his own mother who in her frenzy believes she is killing a wild beast. Yet Euripides handles this traditional story in ways that are modern to his times.