June 23, 2009

The Evolution of a Legend

The Quest for Theseus, edited by Anne G. Ward, describes the growth and transformation of the Theseus legend from the Bronze Age up to 1970, when the book was published.

It's a deep and intriguing exploration of how humanity reinvents a compelling story again and again throughout history. Racine doesn't turn up till page 217.

How's this for a little historical vertigo?

(Click on the chart to view a larger version.)


Posted by Alison Humphrey at 12:22 PM

June 21, 2009

The National Theatre's Phèdre

A great eight-minute video on the newly-opened production of Phèdre at the National Theatre (London, England), starring Helen Mirren.

From the NT website:

The Phèdre episode in the Discover Programme's play now series of documentaries on every play performed at the National Theatre currently has the following sections:

* An introduction from John Shrapnel, who plays Théramène in the production
* An interview with Chris Campbell, our resident expert on French theatre
* An overview of Theseus's backstory narrated by actor Stanley Townsend

Forthcoming features in subseqent releases of the documentary will include:

* Interviews with director Nick Hytner
* Interviews with actors Helen Mirren and Dominic Cooper

And here's a brief blurb on the production's programme notes.

Posted by Alison Humphrey at 11:41 PM

June 04, 2009

Hippolytus Perkins

Maybe it's no accident that Anthony Perkins, who redefined "mama's boy" in 1960's Psycho, should have played a Hippolytus figure in not one but two movies.

Eugene O'Neill's 1924 play Desire under the Elms - so loosely based on the Phaedra myth that Perkins's Eben and his smokin' new stepmother Anna (Sophia Loren) end up having a child together - was filmed in 1958:

Four years later, Jules Dassin and Margarita Lymberaki brought the story home to modern Greece, making Phaedra (Melina Mercouri) the second wife of a shipping tycoon, who falls for her stepson Alexis (Perkins):

Phaedra (1962)

These Hippolytuses (Hippolyti?) are a far cry from Euripides. In both movies, "Phaedra's" love for her husband's son may be forbidden, tortured, even doomed, but it's not unrequited, and it doesn't go unconsummated.

Norman Bates said, "A boy's best friend is his mother." And Hollywood likes its best friends with benefits.

Posted by Alison Humphrey at 05:44 PM