At the National Theatre of Scotland, a new version of Euripides' Bacchae (by David Greig) kicks off the August festivities--starring a buttock-baring Alan Cumming: campy but not only campy, as Michael Billington (the Guardian) relates:
Greig and [director John] Tiffany, however, lay great stress on the story's sexual quality. The results can be very amusing, as when Tony Curran's stiff-backed Pentheus, eyeing up Dionysus, announces: "You're very good looking - at least that's what a woman would say." But there's more than a touch of camp when after a truly astonishing burst of flame, symbolising the destruction of Pentheus' palace, Cumming strolls on and says "Too much?" And later, coaxing the uptight Theban ruler into donning a slinky green cocktail dress, Cumming cries, "Pentheus, come out, you know you want to." All one can say is that being savagely torn to pieces by murderous Bacchantes seems an excessively high price to pay for being reluctant to emerge from the closet. Even if the first half of the evening sometimes owes more to Julian Clary than Attic tragedy, Tiffany's production builds up a formidable head of steam later on.
The description of Pentheus' death is powerfully delivered by an unnamed member of the chorus who, in their feathered red dresses, possess a foot-stamping, hot-gospelling fervour. From the entrance of Paola Dionisotti as the hapless Agave who, in a fine Bacchic frenzy, has hunted down and killed Pentheus, we are in the realm of gut-wrenching emotion. What makes the scene so moving is the delusion of Agave. "Look at him, my lion," she says defiantly holding up her son's head. And when Ewan Hooper's fine Cadmus tries to intervene, Dionisotti mutters "Dear father, you're so grumpy."
All this is first-rate: camp has been struck and we are into the realm of high drama. Tiffany also pulls off another coup by blinding the audience with a bank of light for Dionysus's final appearance so that we seem to be dazzled by his divinity. We are also reminded that the once fey charmer has now turned into a savage god. On surveying the catastrophic violence around him, he says: "I did not force you - you chose your own path." It seems a deeply disingenuous argument confirming Euripides' cynicism about the gods.