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4 November - 15 November

In November 2008 Iris Theatre presented a production of Ted Hughes’ version of Euripides’ strange comic/tragic hybrid play Alcestis.

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Ted Hughes died on 28th Oct 1998, possibly the greatest classical dramatic poet of the 20th Century. A scholar of Shakespeare and Euripides, he had a sensual, visceral connection with the greatest of storytellers. In Alcestis Ted Hughes reaches the pinnacle of his dramatic verse, being both intensely personal and deeply universal in scope. In commemoration of the ten year aniversary of Ted Hughes’ death Iris presents his masterpiece Alcestis.

This is the story of a king, Ademetos, who escapes death when his wife volunteers to die in his place. As she dies Ademetus rails against the Gods’ indifference, spurred on by his own guilt.

Into the heart of this tragedy suddenly crashes Heracles, an invader from another story, drunk and full of games. Ademetos cannot turn away his old friend and Heracles turns the palace upside down with his revels. Our tragedy has suddenly turned to farce. The play acting rises to a crescendo of noise until finally the darkness can be held back no more and the truth is revealed to all.

Sobered and shamed by his behaviour Heracles goes down to the underworld, wrestles Death and returns triumphant with the living Alcestis. We have moved from tragedy, through farce and finally emerged into rebirth.

Ted Hughes, started work on this piece in 1993, but only finished it a few months before his death in 1998. What was a translation quickly became a complete re-imagining of the story exploring in a very raw personal way the themes of the play. As Ademetos fights to come to terms with the death of his wife, the verse is startling in its uncompromising honesty.