Prometheus Bound – Saturday 23d June at 7pm. Be there!

15 Jun

Prometheus Bound, a new translation of the play by Aescylus, will be put on for the people of Sheffield on Saturday 23d June from 7pm at the South Street Open Air Theatre on Park Hill.

 The new production is part of the inaugural Sheffield Festival of Ancient Drama. Its backdrop is the city of Sheffield: its dramatic skyline behind the theatre itself and the history of industry that defined it. Written and designed specifically for this venue, Prometheus pours tragedy and spectable into an unforgettable mould. For one night only, take up a torch and dare to join  the Promethean revolution.

The play is included in the latest ‘What’s on?’ guide from Sheffield City Council.

Prometheus Chained in rehearsal

30 May

by Helen Slaney, Director.

Watching the first full run, it struck me just how rich and strange is this world that we are creating. We’ve grown so accustomed to it over the past few weeks, this hybrid factory-wasteland-Greek myth, that its sheer weirdness has become less acute. But over here on the far side of the Bosphoros, we are truly entering “another world”. It’s an echo-chamber clamouring with names that reach back into deep history: Vulcan, the Amazons, the Titans, the Caucasus, the Bosphoros itself. The oracle at Dodona; Loxias the seer. The actors have been forging new meaning out of alien words, making it possible to “own” them, to occupy the landscape they belong to. You feel very supported by this material, like swimming in deep water, because it gives you not just the words on the page but an entire epic universe to breathe and move in. The names are like entry-points. Ripples on the surface.

A play like Prometheus can’t be approached like naturalistic drama. While it contains some dialogue, and the relationships between characters such as Prometheus-Io, Prometheus-Oceanus etc are very important to establish, there are also long soliloquies and sources of pain – such as Prometheus’ betrayal of a whole generation of gods – whose enormity necessarily outstrips mortal comprehension altogether. Another challenge to realism is the performance space. Lifelike gestures, subtle facial expressions etc are simply lost in a venue this size. So everything has to be represented by spatial relationships: groupings, geometric patterns such as circles and lines, clusters vs. solo, proximity, stylised or repeated actions, and so on. The production is developing very clean, quite severe, and unexpectedly almost “classical” lines, just so we can maintain its clarity. It doesn’t need a great deal of elaboration, just a series of striking images that can let the poetry speak through them. We have been doing quite a lot of vocal work on the text – the cast all have terrific voices (and of course we’ll also be using amplification on the night). Again, it’s about developing a sense of ownership of this dense, dark language, and giving it physical shape. You can’t afford to feel intimidated by a text like this, or keep it at arm’s length; it has to become part of us, like a limb.

Why Prometheus?

28 May

by Matt Shipton, Festival Producer.

As the incredible open air theatre emerged from the hill side above Sheffield Train Station, we just had to stage a play there, but which one? In fact, Prometheus was firmly in mind before work on the new theatre first broke ground.

The conflict around coalitions, the establishment of a new regime and reaction to a new social and political environment has been a backdrop for the last few years. But to me, there are deeper resonances of the play that made it the unchallengeable choice for our production. An explanation requires a quick trip back to 1809.

This was at the height of the Napoleanic Wars. Britain was allied to Sweden and sent a number of warships, including the HMS Prometheus to the Baltic, along with HMS Cerberus and HMS Minotaur, to help battle Russian naval incursions. The commander of the Prometheus successfully led the force to victory, only for Sweden to fall to Russia shortly afterwards and Britain to face political isolation.

Skipping forward less than a century and the European political landscape had radically changed again. In 1898, another HMS Prometheus was launched. At this time innovation in ship design was at a peak and the Prometheus became obsolete almost immediately. Less than 20 years later the Prometheus was sold off for scrap, as the revolutionary and explosively destructive Dreadnought design became the warship of choice.

To me, this brief glimpse of Promethean technology speaks of the inevitability of change. Almost always, this change is unsettling: who can say if it will be progression to a greater ability to destroy or intimidate, or change to a different type of politics that reduce violence or inequality. The name of Prometheus appears as a marker of a transformation whose implications are difficult to predict. Indeed, the mythical Prometheus can be read as a fairly dubious prophet. And yet, the picture is never so simple. We each hope that our actions can somehow benefit the next generation and the mythical Prometheus was considered by the ancient Greeks as the key in the shift from barbarism towards civilisation.

Aeschylus’ Prometheus incorporates this fundamental anxiety around change, but also celebrates humankind’s capacity for innovation and creativity. It might commonly be associated with another Greek myth, but to me Prometheus also represents hope. In this sense, Prometheus is a play for all times: we can never escape the tension between the old and the new and anxiety as the world shifts around us.

Of course, similar arguments can be made for the enduring influence of other ancient plays. But when we sit down to watch the play on 23 June we can look across the skyline to see the statue of Vulcan holding aloft a flame on the Town Hall. This is a symbol not only of Sheffield’s debt to craft and industry but also a reminder of the city’s fluctuating fortunes. I hope the play’s themes will then ring out with the clarity of steel striking steel.

Tickets for ‘Prometheus Chained’ and our other events available now

24 May

Tickets for Prometheus Chained and our other events are available now – please visit the website to purchase online.

Ticket Information for ‘Prometheus Chained’
* PAY ON THE NIGHT – Tickets may be available on the night. However, there is limited capacity and the performance may sell out. To avoid disappointment please book your tickets in advance.
Please bring warm clothing and waterproofs. Umbrellas are not permitted during the performance.

Food and Drink
Audience members are welcome to bring picnics.

Our weather and refunds policy
This policy forms part of our terms and conditions.
We will make every effort to complete the performance and reserve the right to stop and start the action as necessary. Performances are never cancelled or abandoned before the advertised starting time and then only in the event of very bad weather. Please note that we cannot give refunds for cancellation or abandonment as a result of the weather. Tickets are non-refundable unless the event is cancelled by the organiser for reasons other than the weather (in which case the ticket must be returned to the organiser within 21 days of the due performance date).
PLEASE BRING WARM CLOTHING AS EVEN ON THE WARMEST DAYS, IT CAN BECOME QUITE COOL LATER IN THE EVENING

Prometheus Chained — A Word from the Team

20 May

by Henry Stead, ‘Prometheus Chained’ playwright

Image

Rehearsal – 1st Full Run
Location: Sheffield Hallam Drama Studio

METAL ON METAL   METAL ON STONE
METAL ON STEEL    METAL ON BONE

In the sunless depths of the creative arts studio in Sheffield Hallam we open a door on our fantastic cast, gathered in full force to start their first full run. Continue reading

‘Prometheus Chained’ poster revealed

17 May

Pneumatic notes from the factory floor

18 Apr

by Jane Burkowski and Nicole DeRushie, Production Designers.

We have been given the challenge to design Prometheus with an aesthetic known increasingly as ‘steampunk’. A challenge it certainly is, for this is an aesthetic known for its sumptuousness and its love of the antique and the arcane. Given that we have only a handful of coppers to invest in the production of this play, what are a couple of maverick designers to do?

Perhaps the most crucial factor in making a success of this design project is to keep our minds open. There are those who have criticised the steampunk movement (which encompasses literature, music, art and philosophy) and its associated aesthetic as limited: combinations of a few predictable elements and their monochromatic results. Clockwork, airships, and bustles abound. At the same time, we must remember that steampunk is under thirty years old, regardless of its grandfatherly roots and inspirations, and is experiencing a growth spurt.

As a movement it is being pushed in new directions, challenged both in the breadth of its reach and in its very definition. Creative and far-thinking souls are discovering new interpretations of the genre. On our part, it is a thrill to extend ‘steampunkery’ to encompass this production of a Classical Greek drama. Our design combines elements from several aesthetic palettes to reflect the world-in-flux in which Prometheus Chained is set. The Old Order of Titan Inventors, to whom the values of craftsmanship and innovation are paramount, have been overthrown by the New Order – gods of industry and might whose minds will not meet with those of their forefathers. In this production, the former enjoy classic steampunk textures, lines and colours, while the latter indulge in a steely dieselpunk aesthetic; our chorus find themselves caught in the machinations, somewhere between the two. For the set design we needn’t go any further than Sheffield itself for inspiration: a city that boasts a wealth of industrial history and classical references.

Back to the first question, though: how do we achieve this? It’s remarkable what happens when you put patience, luck, necessity, and a ‘can-do’ spirit into a box and give it a shake. This is where we bring the ‘punk’ into the equation: home modifications are beginning to shape pieces we have scrounged, swapped, found and bargained for over weeks of costume development. A number of crafty and artistic skills have been brought to bear on this project: drawing and painting, hand-spinning, small-batch dyeing, even sewing using a Victorian hand-crank sewing machine. We are beginning to feel a bit like the alchemists and mad scientists that steampunks admire, making precious things out of a few base materials and untried ideas.

It’s starting to get a bit exciting around here. The future is looking bright.

Sheffest on BBC Radio Sheffield

11 Feb

BBC Radio Sheffield Breakfast Show presenter Toby Foster listens to a clip from Sheffest’s production of ‘Prometheus Bound’ and discusses the festival with one of its producers, Lottie Parkyn.

Audition call for Aeschylus’s Prometheus Chained

29 Jan

“Fire. Steel. A foundry manufacturing the future. An ancient god in chains. But which force is the most powerful – revenge, or hope? Grab a torch. Dare to join the Promethean revolution.”

A new production of the play Prometheus Bound is coming to Sheffield in Summer 2012 as part of the inaugural Sheffield Festival of Ancient Drama.

Synopsis of the play

Prometheus stole fire from the Olympian gods and gave its benefits to mortals: heat, light, technology, furnaces, manufacturing, steam. Savagely punished for his ingenuity, riveted to an iron crag above the city, he continues to defy the arbitrary power exercised by these cruel new rulers. When he encounters Io, another victim of the Olympian regime, Prometheus traces her wild journey across the world, and discovers that she could provide the weapon to bring down final disaster – or the last chance to redeem a fallen world…

Helen Slaney, Director of Prometheus Chained, explains more about the production: ‘Unfolding in a surreal complex of skeletal girders and gnashing cogs, Prometheus uses elements of Steampunk to weld together two powerful myths: the timeless Ancient Greek legend of power corroded, and the modern myth of inexhaustible energy that drove the Industrial Revolution.’

‘Its backdrop is the city of Sheffield: the dramatic skyline behind the theatre itself and the history of industry that has defined it. Written and designed specifically for this venue, Prometheus pours tragedy and spectacle into an unforgettable mould. For one night only, take up a torch and dare to join the Promethean revolution.’

Audition dates: 18 and 25 February 2012.

Venue: The Leadmill, 6-7 Leadmill Rd, Sheffield.

Production date: 23 June 2012.

Production venue: in the South Streetoutdoor theatre, Sheffield.

Roles

  • Prometheus (m): the Titan who dared to defy divine tyranny and bring fire to mortals.
  • Zeus (m): ruler of Olympus; a brutal factory-owner.
  • Io (f):a young woman abused and abandoned by Zeus.
  • Oceanus (m): Prometheus’ friend; a zany inventor.
  • Vulcan (m): a master-craftsman.
  • Strength (m): a sadistic henchman.
  • Mercury (m/f): Zeus’ sycophantic P.A.
  • Argus (m/f):the factory foreman, and leader of the Chorus.
  • Chorus (m/f):a group of 20 factory workers.
  • Also calling for production personnel: Assistant Director; Production Manager/Stage Manager; Choreographer.

Audition requirements

Auditions on Saturday 18 February will be individual 10-minute slots. We will send you a selection of extracts from the play. Please choose and prepare ONE of these extracts (you don’t need to learn it, but please be familiar with the text). Those interested in auditioning for the chorus will also be asked to attend a movement workshop on Saturday 25.We may also be holding call-backs for other roles on that day. If you cannot attend either of these Saturdays but would still like to audition, please contact us and we will do our best to arrange an alternative.

Expressions of interest should be sent to: sheffest1@gmail.com

Sheffest in The Star

3 Jan

Colin Drury, Report from Sheffield’s Star paper talks to Matt Shipton, Sheffest Producer, about the inspiration behind the project:

Sheffest Producer, Matt Shipton, at the site of Prometheus Bound.

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