BAREFACED GREEK | London, V&A

When do you actually see Greek plays being performed? And when do you actually see them being performed in Greek? The answer is, at the V&A for the next three weeks.  Film company Barefaced Greek are showcasing a trio of very short films (to watch all three back-to-back takes 26 minutes) featuring English-speaking actors deliver monologues and dialogues from the classics in Ancient Greek.

For the tiny minority who already know the plays Agamemnon, Lysistrata and Trojan Women, the effect of seeing and hearing extracts from these two and a half thousand year old text spoken in its original form is a rare and exciting treat. For the majority who are newcomers, it provides the perfect introduction, since each short film is self-contained.

Audiences may expect the short films to be played out in the authentic Greek style, with exaggerated masks in an outdoor amphitheatre. Barefaced Greek’s genius is to abandon these trappings and present the text in an unpretentious and intimate face-to-camera style, in modern dress, and in the same style you’d expect from any high-class modern TV drama. A clear and uncomplicated translation is provided in subtitles (no “thou” or “doth” archaisms here). The effect is fresh and – dare I say it – accessible.

The educational aspect is apparent: the language might be ancient and alien to us, but the content is just as exciting as the next thing on Netflix. Who wouldn’t want to learn more after seeing this? But it’s not just educational, it’s genuinely gripping, well-performed and beautifully shot. It might even change how you look at the same characters immortalised in statues around the V&A when you leave.

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