Clouds
July 2000


Aristophanes' Clouds was presented in collaboration with the American Academy in Rome, with the kind support of the Greek Embassy and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the English Theatre of Rome.

The Clouds is rarely
performed, though the
playwright considered
it his best work.


Antiquity wasn’t all highbrow philosophy and poetry. Ancient Greek comedy was bawdy, brash and beloved by the people. Throughout the centuries, the dirty bits were censored, distorting the playwrights’ genius. But now Arion Theatre presents an authentic, no-holds-barred production of Aristophanes’ Clouds in English.

First performed in 423BC, the play was revived for the Edinburgh Fringe Festival 2000, where its publicity parade (including a traditional 30-foot penis) was banned from the Royal Mile. Now the British cast regroups for performances at the American Academy in Rome (July 5,6 & 7) and a gala evening at the Palazzo Altemps on July 8.

This production captures the cheeky spirit of Greek comedy – but is firmly grounded in academic research. University of London scholars have produced a new translation and the score was written by Ancient Greek music expert and film composer John Franklin, now resident in Rome at the American Academy.

The Clouds is rarely performed, though the playwright considered it his best work. It recounts the tale of a country bumpkin, who forces his son – a good-time boy keen on women, wine and chariot racing – to study under pompous Socrates. Soon both are in a muddle, unable to chose between traditional values and flashy new ideas.

"The plot is surprisingly modern," Mr. Franklin explained. "The theme is universal – fear of change and friction between the generations. That’s still unfolding today."

This ‘young versus old theme’ is further emphasized by Arion Theatre’s daring mix of ancient text and modern technology. Multimedia projections form the set; the pastiche of animation, film and stills from vase paintings help explain the classical play’s less obvious jokes.

As for the dirty bits, Clouds does carry a warning label: "This is a scholarly production and has remained faithful to the (often obscene) spirit of Greek comedy."

And it’s about time. This is Aristophanes as it was meant to be.

The theme is universal
– fear of change and
friction between the
generations. That’s
still unfolding today.


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