Phedre Can love be seen as something as bad as a disease? Evidently so, as depicted in the greek tragedy Phedre. Ironically, it is quite interesting how love is portrayed throughout the script as if it was evil and cursed. This, I believe, is the main theme of the play, the forbidden love. From reading the script, it was apparent that, Phedre, is the main character. Phedre, married to her sisters ex-husband Theseus, is torn between faith and humility, and the lustful love for her stepson Hippolytus. Her shameless attraction to Hippolytus is obviously forbidden in that on the basis of incest (although not blood related), this I interpret as her super objective, making her the protagonist.
Yet, seldomly, from interpreting the script, she too, is also the antagonist. This is clearly evident in that shes fighting within herself to rid her of these feelings. Against her will, she does everything she can to divest these feelings. I prayed, I sacrificed, oh god, the blood and incense that I spilt! (Racine,10). These confessions of forbidden love and obsession are not only scene through the eyes of Phedre, but also through other supporting characters. Interestingly, Racine structured this play in such a manner that we clearly see a correlation between scenes and themes amongst the characters.
I for instance, saw the hidden relationship of Hippolytus and Aricia or Enone and Phedre, and they all lay along the same theme. Hippolytus, unsure whether to proclaim his devotion and love to Aricia in that she is a prisoner of his father, Theseus greatest enemy, a rival family. You can clearly see the similar predicaments. Or the relation between Phadres nurse, Enone, and Phadre, that Enone has this obsessive loyalty to Phadre. In turn, her actions of lying to Theseus, the king, that Phadre was raped by Hippolytus while Theseus was away in hell inorder to save Phadres life I believe, is the catalyst of not only Hippolytus death, but also that of Phadre. For the reason that all these dramatic and high peak plots of lust, mischief, and royalty I envisioned a play with not only breath-taking props, but also a plethora of elaborate set designs.
The stage I envisioned, while reading the script, was set in proscenium style Theater with regal Greek objects of fine cloth and statues of gods to truly depict a Greek palace. The costumes of the characters detailed to the exact garments of Greek society. And all of this would be accented with bright shimmering lights with hint of blue and yellow to depict the sun. Fortunately, this is not what I had seen when I watched the play. I say fortunately, because I wouldve never used my imagination and interaction during the play, since it was already set for me, thus sometime during the play I wouldve lost interest. The actual set design was assembled within an arena style theater with more of a symbolic set design.
This set design is quite unique and very rare to find. The director, Ki Gottberg, had an eccentric method of setting the theater, stage, sound and lighting, and props (costumes included). The approach of an arena style theater gives the idea of the audience as being part of the play, almost as if an audience member were to be playing the roll of Neptune, or as if all of the audience members were gods looking down upon the mortals. This is the vision, I believe Ki was going for and succeeded. The arena style theater made it quite evident that there werent going to be elaborate scene changes in that it would be almost impossible to change scenes without anyone seeing. But Kis use of symbolic props and color matched, if not exceeded my expectations.
The great use of driftwood as a bench depicting the coastal waters of the Mediterranean and the colorful pillows of purple, accented with shimmering beads truly illustrate royalty and wealth. Another interesting approach was that of the floor. Seen as if it was marble, no one can actually figure out what it was, as if it were bottomless, or a sense of being lost, in relation with the protagonists of the play. This was a cleaver idea by Ki and really caught my eye. The idea of the ropes and the whole ceremony of the opening of the ropes, although it was not part of what I envisioned, it was an excellent part to add. What it was trying to accomplish, I believe, was the metaphoric idea of opening the windows between gods and mortals and in accordance, no god (an audience member) was allowed to cross that rope.
In my opinion, what really accentuated all of the stage, set, etc. was the use of the coastal soundscape. Again, I think it was the directors way of catching a Greek palace environment. With so much wealth, these palaces were immense and had a lot of wide open spaces and could catch the sound of ocean as it echoes through the halls. And the director, again, accomplished this vision.
Not only were the visions of the set important, but also the look of the characters. I believe the play was well casted by the director. Each and every actor, female or male, truly fit the role. The character of Aricia especially captured me, in that it was the same Aricia I had envisioned in my mind as I read the play. The use of pastel color and an elaborate headpiece gave me the feeling of innocence and a tad juvenile. This was in contrast to the character of Phadre.
The role of Phadre was completely opposite to what I had imagined in my head as I was reading the play, yet the directors interpretation was guided to believe that it was Phadre. The body language of agony and distress, along with the loud cries of pain and wicked loss of mentality are the qualities that Phadre had in order to tell the story of her internal conflict of lust and humility. This was quite evident in the middle of Act I where Phedre explains to Enone how her curse from Venus came about and how she has gone mad and want to die. In conclusion, the overall greek tragedy was truly defined in the tale of Phedre. Reading the play, although my vision was truly different from that of the director of the play, I was able to capture and accept the vision that the director had.
I applaud the theatrical production in that it defines the true art of drama and entertainment.