Ancient Voices in Contemporary Theatrical Forms: The Case of The Bacchae by Kneehigh Theatre

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Only separated by two years in their publication, Sarah Ruhl’s Eurydice (2003) and Kneehigh Theatre’s The Bacchae (2005) re-introduced two ancient myths into the theatrical spectrum of the beginning of the new millennium. Sarah Ruhl and the company Kneehigh Theatre can be considered two relevant names for contemporary drama in English, each of them representing the new American and British dramaturgies, respectively. Resorting to myth criticism and theatre semiotics as umbrella theories, this article explores the mechanisms of dramaturgical adaptation and cultural referentiality that can be detected in Ruhl’s and Kneehigh’s postmodern visions of two classical myths. Besides this formal analysis, the historical and ideological implications of the play’s main symbols are also taken into account. Ultimately, the comparison between the two texts throws light on the importance that myths have in the recreation of allegedly contemporary themes and tropes. All in all, this article looks at the presence of the past in Eurydice and The Bacchae as representatives of Ruhl’s and Kneeigh’s experimental work and, by extension, at the continuities of old forms in the new voices of theatre in English on both sides of the Atlantic.
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Journal of Dramatic Theory and Criticism, 2014, vol. 29, núm. 1, p.65-79