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Classical Reception: Fragments, A 21st Century Vaudeville

The Classical Reception team at work. Photo Credit: Leesal Malhan

Just as the collective knowledge of the classical world might be fragmentary to a modern audience, the past is fragmentary in its existence.

In its third year, 2018’s intercollegiate Classical Reception Play: Fragments, renders the fragmentary literary landscape of antiquity in a Vaudeville show, inspired by the Strand’s history of Burlesque Theatre in the 19th Century.

Roar met with Fragments’ array of project managers, directors and set-designers to discuss the play and the emergent discipline of Classical Reception.

Classical Reception, ‘is something I like to think of as having come out of the Classics itself,’ Marcus Bell, one of the Project Managers from this year’s Classical Reception Play explains. ‘It’s there as a way of challenging what classics has been, a creative exercise in producing something new from the past.’

And this very mind set is perpetuating the screens of 21st century households in the celebrity of academics such as Mary Beard, at The Bridge Theatre, the modern day treatment of Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar. Why? Marcus explains, ‘Classics is a good way to view a lot of complicated issues about identity and politics, nationalism and nations in a way that allows creativity.’

Project Manager Matilda Neill explains that the origins of the project were ‘to add on to the prestige of the Greek Play that works with new ideas but within that ancient tradition’, referring to KCL’s Greek Play, which this year had its sixty-fifth anniversary with a production of Medea earlier this semester. However, in an exciting twist to the Greek Play’s relatively young sibling, the Classical Reception Play is different.

‘In the past two years, we have picked one play, this year we have gone for a Vaudeville style performance and fragments of different pieces.’ Matilda explains. One of the plays Fragments utilises is Eurpides’ Alcmaeon in Corinth, a play to which only four fragments of more than a few phrases have been definitively assigned.

Tamsyn Chandler, director of this piece explains she was asked to pick one section of the play to develop. Also part of the mix is a filmed recital of ‘Kate Tempest’s poem Hold Your Own’ the combined elements of which will culminate in ‘theatre performed in different mediums.’

‘People are starting to think about Classics in a new way and the youth are spearheading this. Classical Reception was only established 20-30 years ago. We are now taking it in another direction, and thinking about Classics in new ways rather than sticking with what is traditional.’ Sneha Choudry, a member of the production team and social media manager says.

And she expresses how this dynamic group, from King’s, The Courtauld and The Architectural Association, are taking on a fresh challenge that promises to result in a rich and vibrant performance. ‘People find a space for themselves in Classics as a subject, somewhere to be creative’ says Marcus.

With the talented cohort who lend their expertise from Classics to theatre and dance to set design, this is surely set to be a performance of multi-disciplinary brilliance.


Classical Reception: Fragments will be showing on Wednesday 21st March, 7pm Bush House Auditorium. Tickets available here.


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