"The Bacchae is not an easy watch — and at times not an enjoyable one — but that's the point."
Adena Jacobs and Aaron Orzech's The Bacchae takes the melodrama and gruesomeness of an Ancient Greek tragedy and mashes it together with the confronting modern female sexuality and stylised violence of Spring Breakers.
Those looking for a traditional narrative — or anything traditional at all — won't find it in this avant-garde performance by the female teen cast of St Martins. The girls pray to the god Dionysus, giving into desires; they grapple with repression and open sensuality, and the audience in turn grapples with seeing the visceral representation of a topic that's remained taboo: the sexuality of young girls. Any discomfort is amplified by a garish, technicolour set and pulsating, hypnotic and harsh soundtrack (impressively performed by young St Martins singers and musicians). The cast does not 'act' as such, but rather performs stylised and oftentimes mechanical choreography that often transcends or subverts gender (the swinging dicks scene a particular highlight) and sexuality, challenging notions of the (female) body and asking questions of agency — taking it a notch further than its 2013 Fraught Outfit sister piece, On The Bodily Education Of Young Girls. In a porn-saturated world that infantalises women and sexualises young girls while at the same time denying them the opportunity to express themselves as sexual beings, a world in which female empowerment is often denigrated and exploited (not here, however) whether it caters to the male gaze or not, The Bacchae is not an easy watch — and at times not an enjoyable one — but that's the point. It seeks to push the medium and its audience over any imposed edges.