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Hell to ships: Reading Film Festival celebrates best of Greek Tragedy

Greek Tragedy On The Small Screen

Hell to ships, hell to men, hell to cities: an iconic line from Agamemnon, featured within the showcase.

Films depicting war, revenge and heroism will show audiences how classical Greek tragedy is ancient but always new, during a series of screenings later this month.

Greek Tragedy On The Small Screen is a film season being hosted by the University of Reading in its Minghella Cinema between 25 January and 8 February.

The films are based on the classic plays, performed prominently in the 5th century BC. Dozens of Greek tragedy films were regularly screened in the UK between 1958 and 1990.

Professor Barbara Goff, Professor of Classics at the University of Reading, said: "Although these Greek tragedies were originally performed thousands of years ago, and all these films are at least 25 years old, they are as relevant today as they were then.

"If you love Shakespeare's tragedies, this is an opportunity to experience the classical roots of drama."

The festival allows us to revisit some of the most exciting of these movies that were first shown on the small screen, all linked by the theme of the Trojan War.

A coveted ‘F' rating has been obtained for the three films to be screened, marking the fact they all feature women in lead roles or a female director.

The screenings have been arranged by the University of Reading's Department of Classics, in collaboration with Reading Film Theatre, the Department of Film, Theatre and Television, and the University Arts Committee.

Professor Goff added: "The classic plays help us to explore the modern-day conflicts and predicaments we see going on around us. We look forward to welcoming film fans to celebrate them being brought to life once again."

FILM SCREENING DETAILS

Wednesday 25 January: Iphigenia at Aulis - Introductory talk by Dr Amanda Wrigley

The 1990 production, directed by Don Taylor, is thought to be the last Greek tragedy shown on British television. Fiona Shaw performs as Clytemnestra, the mother who must see her daughter die.

Wednesday 1 February: Agamemnon - Introductory talk by Professor Barbara Goff

This was the first play of the 1979 trilogy The Serpent Son, a translation of Aeschylus' Oresteia. Diana Rigg again plays Clytemnestra, who this time gets her revenge. The plaudits she received for her performance saw her pictured on the cover of the Radio Times ahead of the film's screening. Doctor Who costume designer Barbara Kidd's creations combine ancient myth with sci-fi, while the production cleverly took advantage of being shown on the small screen.

Wednesday 8 February: Electra - Introductory talk by Dr Anastasia Bakogianni

First shown on ITV in 1962, this film was adapted from the production, by Dimitris Rondiris and Peiraïkon Theatron, by Joan Kemp-Welch - one of the first women to work in television in the 1950s. She thought that the film would be a hit on TV, despite the language barrier, because it was a production that seized the emotions, rather than appealing only to the intellect. Rondiris himself said: "The audience will cry, as our audiences all over Europe have cried. They have not understood a word, but they have cried."

All the films will begin at 7pm. Tickets start at £5 and are available on the Reading Film Theatre website or by emailing b.e.goff@reading.ac.uk. Those who buy tickets for all three screenings can do so at a reduced price.

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