ADELPHE Review; Forging Sisterhood Within The Ancient Greek Canon
Let’s be real, the ancient Greeks did not shy away from violence against women. Delving into the canon of classical Greek theatre, it’s clear that this type of violence was the bread and butter of the great authors of the time. If only these women could have been written by Áine Donnelly and Dani Michie, they may have survived their own plays.
ADELPHE (Αδελφη) is the Greek word for sister. That is the first thing I was told about the play before the live reading, and from the short prologue we saw which united six iconic female figures from the Greek canon, it is clear the play will live up to it’s title in unifying these women through their experiences with extreme violence.
Donnelly and Michie (otherwise known as The Raving Collective) began writing the script in residence under the mentorship of Patricia Fell of Windsor Feminist Theatre (WFT), and through the gracious financial support of the City of Windsor’s Arts and Culture Heritage Fund, a foundation providing life-support for the arts during the pandemic. As COVID-19’s sudden complications all but stopped the production in its tracks earlier this year, the script is still in process. However these two determined graduates of the University of Windsor’s BFA program will not allow their plans for this show to be stopped, choosing instead to continue workshopping and fine-tuning their work with plans to perform the full piece in the summer of 2021.
The show aims to understand the motivations and the paths that led each of these women to their respective doom. Too often in both classic and modern literature, we see the brutalization of women as a plot device; as a motivation for a male character in a story exclusively told by men. In ADELPHE, each of these women, Cassandra, Medea, Clytemnestra, Iphigenia, Agave, and Jocasta, seek to tell their stories themselves, rather than have them spoken by the tongues of men. They are given full agency over their own narratives, and invite us to listen to their stories firsthand. The team of readers for this preview included Elena Reyes, Sophie Bouey, Marissa Rasmussen, Kristin Siapas and Shannon Pitre as the chorus of Greek women. The prologue flowed like the water in an M.C. Escher drawing, down and up and down again, each narrative trickling into the next in a chain of violence, revenge and misunderstanding which demands to be broken.
The reading took place in the waning hours of the evening in Patricia Fell’s cozy backyard, on the front porch of the WFT tinyhouse. The audience was invited to sit on blankets, benches and camp chairs and enjoy the intimate (yet safely distanced) reading. Comment cards were available at the entrance, and the audience was encouraged to participate in a brief Q&A after the reading for those curious about the ongoing process of the piece.
All in all, Áine Donnelly and Dani Michie have a succinct brashness about their writing which they infuse with elements of classical Greek theatre. The prologue was spoken by this chorus of famously wronged women who simultaneously spoke as one and as themselves. These are virtually powerless female characters who have found themselves at the end of their ropes and will not waste their precious last words. They implore you to hear them now as they were not heard in their own time. This kind of work is deeply important in our current climate where oppressed women everywhere still go unheard. This piece, which will have a movement component once finished, is a beacon of sisterly light for many women who have been silenced and abused.
Though we only got a taste of what Donnelly and Michie’s ADELPHE will become once the pandemic has ebbed away, this is an auspicious beginning to a piece that will no doubt shake the bedrock of the Pelee Island Quarry where it is set to be performed at Stone and Sky Music & Art Series’ Greek Revival Festival next summer, as well as Windsor Pride, and the Toronto Fringe.
If you are interested ADELPHE or the Windsor Feminist Theatre and would like to stay informed on the project going forward, please visit the WFT Facebook page, or click the link below to visit the ADELPHE Chuffed page, where the team is currently accepting donations: