Look who’s Bacchae in town

Trinity Western University’s theatre department presents a modern day retelling of an ancient Greek legend

Sarah Ruth and Thomas Nelson perform in Trinity Western University’s   production, The Bacchae, on stage March 22 to April 2.

Sarah Ruth and Thomas Nelson perform in Trinity Western University’s production, The Bacchae, on stage March 22 to April 2.

Step aside, Justin Bieber.  

Fame is as instant as technology, and the iconic “Diona” has managed to achieve godlike status overnight.

Or so goes the retelling of ancient Greek legend by Langley playwright Aaron Caleb. In a revamped version of The Bacchae, on stage at Trinity Western University from March 22 to April 2, Dionysus has become Diona and there is something eerily familiar about the near cult-like sensation created by her music, philosophy, and techno-gadgets.

The Bacchae projects a hypnotic, hyper-contemporary world of glittering enchantment. The sensational superstar and activist Diona offers “pleasure divine” —  which, perhaps not coincidentally, is the title of one of the production’s original pop numbers, written by local composer Jef Gibbons.   

But when Diona and her entourage roll into the quiet town of Canton, home to the star’s troubled past, her concert plans unearth a culture clash that threatens to get ugly.  Is Diona’s revolutionary message the key to Canton’s freedom?  Or is she about to start a war?

With its contemporary yet highly stylized and surreal setting, Caleb’s adaptation has updated more than the language—all of the spectacle is inspired by the language of entertainment today.  

“The contemporary lens has informed everything,” explains Caleb, who is also directing.  

“From start to finish the show is fast-paced and highly visual, it’s a feast for the senses.  The original music runs the gamut from upbeat and poppy to techno to darker, edgier styles.  And underneath it all, there’s this ribbon of suspense.  As Diona’s devotees discover, this is one rave you won’t want to tweet about.”

Second year theatre major Thomas Nelson, a graduate of Langley Christian School, is taking his first steps onto the boards at TWU as a clumsy, yet endearing cop named Gary, who is charged with keeping watch on the mysterious Diona and her entourage.

 “Playing Gary is a blast.  I love the way he interacts with people — he has such a huge personality,” said Nelson. “You never have to guess how he’s feeling. I wish I was as passionate about everything as Gary is.”

This being Nelson’s first time onstage at TWU, the director has challenged him a lot on things he didn’t think he could do, he said.  

“For example, it turns out if I work hard enough, I can scream like a girl.”

All joking aside, the Langley actor is confident the play’s themes  will leave audiences with plenty to consider.  

“The contemporary take on this legend brings up a lot of questions about how we interact with technology, and with pop culture in general.  

“Technology can be so beneficial, but when do we reach the point where it disconnects us more than it connects us?  And where is that line in pop culture when we cease to follow something because we agree with it, but just follow it because everyone else is?”

Evening performances of The Bacchae are Tuesday through Saturday, March 22 to April 2, at 8 p.m., with Saturday matinees at 2 p.m. On March 24, there will be a post-show panel discussion in honour of World Theatre Day.  

For more information and tickets, visit www.twu.ca/theatre or email theatre@twu.ca.