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Prometheus Bound, review & Aeschylus discussion

Prometheus Bound is a rarely performed Aeschylus [disputed] play.

It’s a tragedy and is the first in a trilogy. Unfortunately the two sequels, Prometheus Unbound, and Prometheus the Fire Bringer are ‘lost’.

The play is set after the Olympian gods, led by Zeus, have overthrown the Titans, the older race of gods led by Kronos (Cronus), Zeus’ father, who had overthrown his own father Ouranos (Uranus). Prometheus and his mother were the only Titans on Zeus’ side. Zeus is now consolidating his power, and, like any new ruler, is busy crushing all dissenters.

Prometheus despite having helped Zeus come to power is now being punished for helping mankind survive by giving them fire. This however seems a bit of a cover for the fact that Zeus wants Prometheus to tell him his prophecies [Prometheus knows a lot about the future] the play introduces the bound Prometheus and tells the story of why he is bound.

Aeschylus [note there's debate as to whether this is an Aeschylus play for several reasons, which I won't go into here but see the wiki] likes the themes that made Athens great. In the Agamemnon trilogy, he focuses on the institution of law, which replaced blood feuds. In “The Persians”, he cheers free Athens’s victory over Persian despotism. And in Prometheus [if it is Aeschylus] he celebrates resistance to tyranny.

It is in this resistance to tyranny, and refusal to give in that strikes a note to modern happenings – Nelson Mandela comes to mind.

There’s also a parallel in the use of restriction, constriction (like Beckett see my other recent post) and isolation which seems a very modern topic.

James Kerr translated and directed and at times it was brilliant but I can’t honestly say it was consistently so, perhaps this has to do with the difficulties of a relatively “back story narrated”, mono-paced, no action ‘Aeschylus’ style and also the lack of humour [that’s how the Greeks liked their tragedy?]. Occasionally the direction lacked a touch of clarity, in my mind. However, I think these are all difficulties in trying to stage Aeschlyus’ tragedy and I would not really fault the director. Further, the translation seemed lively.

The actors gave great performances. David Oyelowo was amazing in articulating the internal and physical struggle of Prometheus. He also looked beautiful as did the rest of the cast.

I also liked Io’s performance by Hayley Atwell.

(Zeus fancied Io and jealous Hera, Zeus’s wife, has turned her into a cow and tormented her with a magic stinging insect [giving her gangrene]. She’s delirious with pain but wants to know her future

“speak the truth; the worst thing a person can do is give false comfort”)

Atwell has a great physical presence and her performance was compelling or as compelling as people portraying cows get!

Also, it’s worth noting the Sound Theatre is a great new venue.

The play is a should see for interested in tragedy but could drag for those who need instant gratification or humour from their theatre.

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One Response to “Prometheus Bound, review & Aeschylus discussion”

  1. eovnu87435ds on May 10th, 2007

    This is kinda boring, and hard to memorize the lines. I had to play Prometheus in Prometheus Bound for a school project.

  • About me

    I'm a playwright and investment analyst. I have a broad range of interests: food, gardening, innovation & intellectual property, sustainability, architecture & design, writing and the arts. I sit on the board of Talawa Theatre Company and advise a CIS investment trust on socially responsible investments.

  • Recent Work

    Recent plays include, for theatre: Nakamitsu, Yellow Gentlemen, Lost in Peru, Lemon Love. For radio: Places in Between (R4), Patent Breaking Life Saving (WS).

  • Nakamitsu

  • Yellow Gentlemen