Greek play inspires unusual undertaking

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Heads in "The Clouds Project" . At the opening of "The Clouds Project" at the Aigantighe Art Gallery are artist Michael Armstrong (left), translator Andrew Paul Wood and director Gail Tatham. PHOTO: SUPPLIED/GLENYS PARRY

The ancient Greek comedy The Clouds is being brought to life at the Aigantighe Art Gallery.

In an unusual undertaking – and a first for Timaru – “The Clouds Project” has involved multimedia responses by various local artists to Aristophanes’ satirical comedy.

Director Gail Tatham said the ancient Greek comedy The Clouds (BC423) was one of the best-known and most popular satires ever written.

In the play the great comic dramatist Aristophanes takes issue with the moral depravity of his fellow Athenians, particularly for their opportunism and unscrupulous self-interest.

Tatham said that although designed to be funny, the play’s underlying themes were to do with greed, corruption and intellectual dishonesty, which still resonated today in a world where fake news and hate speech seemed to dominate the mass media.

In response to the play, well-known Timaru artist Michael Armstrong has created artworks that could be used as masks, properties or even part of the set in a modern production of the play. His work is now on show in an exhibition at the Aigantighe Art Gallery, which runs until October 20.

Armstrong has also provided the imagery for the chorus of The Clouds in this multimedia presentation. These drawings have been animated and projected on to the wall in the gallery space by Timaru art student and graphic designer Rachael Winter.

The exhibition is open to the public during the usual opening hours of the Aigantighe Art Gallery and is free of charge. Alongside “The Clouds Project” the Aigantighe is displaying work from its permanent collection which was influenced by ancient Greek and classical Roman traditions.

Tatham said to accompany this exhibition, and to give viewers an impression of what the play was like, the script had been adapted to apply to contemporary New Zealand life.

That be presented at the Aigantighe in a series of rehearsed readings, using some of the pieces made by Armstrong.

At the same time, also evoking the ethereal chorus of The Clouds, recorded original music specially composed and performed by local musician Tracey Bingham would be included as part of the 90-minute reading of the play.

Audiences would be invited to to take part in a question and answer session about the project after the reading.

The project has been supported by the Creative Communities Scheme and the Friends of the Aigantighe Art Gallery.

Rehearsed readings of the contemporary New Zealand version of the play, directed by Tatham, will take place on:

  • Friday, October 11 at 7 pm.
  • Saturday, October 12 at 2.30pm.
  • Wednesday, October 16 at 7pm.
  • Friday, October 18 at 7pm.
  • Saturday, October 19 at 2.30pm.

Attendance at the rehearsed readings is free, but seats will need to be reserved by contacting the Aigantighe Gallery.