The Disorderly Women
In February, our Upper School put on a spectacular performance of The Disordely Women by John Bowen.
The Disorderly Women is an adaptation of The Bacchae, a Greek Tragedy written by Euripides. On a very simplistic level, The Bacchae is a moral tale about a bad man who defies a god and is horribly punished - a punishment that is disproportionate to the offence. This also happens in The Disorderly Women, though it is now roughly set in the late 60’s, an age of female political awakening and social exploration of drugs and sex.
The story goes that Pentheus hates his father, Echion, who was a cruel and sadistic man. He wants to be the opposite of him and therefore creates a society that is far from the violent dictatorship that he grew up in. However, he is also fearful of becoming his father, as he recognises, and suppresses, some of his traits: just, violence, selfishness. Dionysus never got on with Echion and, when he discovers that Pentheus is also ‘denying’ him, sets about getting his revenge. Managing to get mother to murder son is just the icing on the cake …..
The play is set in the late 60’s, not only a time of expression, experimentation and liberation, but also of a patriarchal society struggling to deal with its ‘youngsters’, their ideals and their politics. The women who leave Thebes to go to the mountain do so of their own free will; a free will that, previously, they didn’t think they had. Dionysus gives the women in the play the opportunity to break free from the ‘shackles’ of polite society and from what is expected from them. Under his leadership they become unburdened from responsibility and start to develop their own thoughts and opinion. They also start to hallucinate and express themselves more physically, whilst ingesting his ‘mushrooms’.
Put all this together and it’s just a great story of power, control, freedom, realisation and, ultimately, revenge.
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