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All Greek to me

Revived ancient instrument features in Bradfield College's Alcestis

Trish Lee

Trish Lee


01635 886663

Bradfield greek

THIS year's Bradfield College Greek play Alcestis – performed in the glorious open-air amphitheatre, affectionately known as ‘Greeker’, set in a disused chalk pit right at the heart of campus – was significant in a number of ways. It was the college’s first Greek play and this year’s production was the 40th in Bradfield’s history. By putting on the play just two years after Persae 2017, they also brought the play back into line with the Oxford-Bradfield-Cambridge triennial – a century-long tradition.

To mark the special occasion they collaborated with musician, producer and lecturer Barnaby Brown and associate professor in classical languages and literature at Jesus College, Oxford, Armand D’Angour, with support from the University
of Oxford’s Knowledge Exchange Seed Fund. Professor D’Angour reconstructed the solo songs and kommos especially for this production. Barnaby Brown played reconstructed ancient double aulos – this is the first modern production of any ancient drama to use a critical reproduction of a theatre instrument of the period – a hyperteleios aulos – and in which the creativity (scholarly and artistic) is rigorously constrained by historical evidence.

They said a Tardis would be required to know if the results approximated any more closely to the sounds that an ancient Greek audience would have heard in the City Dionysia festival of 438 BC, when Alcestis was first produced. But that was not the point. “Rather than letting scholarship be an inhibiting source of anxiety, our goal is to inspire active, meaningful and mind-opening engagement between the present and the past.”

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