Simon McKay Presents

Tears, Treachery... and Just A Little Murder

Stephen Greif & Sian Phillips performing Greek Classics Just A Little Murder

Stephen Greif & Siân Phillips (2021)

Written and directed by DAVID STUTTARD

Starring SIÂN PHILLIPS and STEPHEN GREIF.

Produced by Simon McKay

Forthcoming London Shows:

​Sunday 25 September at 3pm Chiswick Tabard (Book Tickets)

Sunday 2 October at 3pm Chiswick Tabard (Book Tickets)

Sunday 16 October at 4pm Hellenic Centre (Book Tickets)

Sunday 30 October at 3:30pm and 7:30pm Jermyn Street Theatre (Book Tickets)

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About the Show

When the victorious Greek general, Agamemnon, returned from the Trojan War, he was probably expecting an easy life. But that’s not what he got. He’s the person that Semonides was referring to when he spoke about people coming back home only to be killed by their own wives.

Siân Phillips and Stephen Greif give voice to the different responses of male and female figures in Greek literature as they experience the big emotions like love, desire and hate. However, both genders show they can be extremely vengeful. It's as if very little has changed in the last 2,000 years, only the scenery.

Dame Siân Phillips many stage roles at the RSC, the National and in the West End have ranged from Shakespeare, Wilde and Shaw to new plays and musicals such as Pal Joey and Cabaret. Her most recent TV is McDonald and Dodds.

 

Stephen Greif has worked extensively at The National at The Old Vic under Laurence Olivier, Peter Hall (Death of a Salesman). Nicholas Hytner (Dark Materials) and the West End. Extensive TV work includes Blake's 7 and The Crown.

Back Story

In 2012, a friend of my wife was aware of my friendship with Fenella Fielding and invited her to read in a charity event for Actors of Dionysus. Fenella saw the script, written by David Stuttard, and proclaimed it to be brilliant and 'very speak-able'. The evening went fantastically well and Fenella was keen to do more. There were subsequent shows in various formats before she eventually chose Stephen Greif to stick with for the two-hander 'Just A Little Murder'. Fenella made it clear to me that 'the Greek' was her favourite work from probably the last 20 years of her life. Sadly, she passed away in 2018. David and Stephen asked me if I thought there was a way to continue. Yes, if we could get the right actress. I had only one suggestion - Siân Phillips! (It helped me knowing how highly Fenella rated her.) Siân was also impressed with the script and happy to work with the three of us. The result is 'Savage Beauty'. It uses some of what went before, but to suit Siân’s character much of it is new.

STEPHEN GREIF with Fenella Fielding performing Greek Classics Just A Little Murder

Fenella Fielding & Stephen Greif by Etienne Gilfillan (2017)

David says, "The show is about two people - a man and a woman exploring the profundity of human experience and the various twists and turns of life and personalities: the very things that makes us human. It's age old wisdom that speaks to us today with extraordinary immediacy. Ancient Greek literature is so timeless and universal." David used his own translations or adaptations for the show, some translated specifically for this. He explains, "The pieces are arranged to give a dramatic arc. They're intended to be speak-able and actable and while they retain the style of the original, there's an emphasis on communicating with a contemporary audience."

Siân reacted well to an early draft of the script, but it really stuck with me that she said she'd been asked to do Greek in the past but it hadn't worked out. In our first meeting, she said, "I didn't feel those translations showed what was going on. They didn't come over as wonderfully as I'd expected. I've performed plays in Welsh which were very successful, but some of the same plays in English didn't work. The power of the language was gone in translation." Clearly David's work did appeal to her as recently she told me how wonderful it has been working with David and Stephen. “It's been an eye opener... I decided I would read the Iliad. It was like a Tarantino - all death with eyeballs and bones being crushed. I like a bit of violence. Then I read the Odyssey. I've been meaning to do so all of my life. I read them because of David. It's something new for me."

Stephen tells me working with Siân (after Fenella), "Remains a quality experience. It's two ladies with different personalities, but with massively impressive background and experience in theatre everywhere. From my point of view, as I'm getting older myself, it's invigorating to have a learning curve at my age. I'm enjoying working somebody who I can learn from, as I did with Fenella."

David has taken on more of the direction of the updated script. Stephen says, "Who knows better than him? By explaining the characters and the situation they are in gives you the clues to deliver what you need. He gives a pointer. It's easy to give fast food readings of stuff. It's more difficult to find the essence. That's what we've been working on."

It's been clear to me throughout the development of this show, it's been all about the script and the enthusiasm that has engendered. For these very seasoned actors to be so inspired by words written so long ago certainly does seem to make it true that ancient Greek literature is indeed timeless and universal.

SIMON McKAY 2022
 

David Stuttard & Stephen Greif - Greek Classics Just A Little Murder

David Stuttard & Stephen Greif by Etienne Gilfillan (2017)

Stephen Greif & Sian Phillips performing Greek Classics Just A Little Murder

Stephen Greif & Siân Phillips by Simon McKay (2021)

Stephen Greif & Sian Phillips performing Greek Classics Just A Little Murder

Stephen Greif & Siân Phillips by Simon McKay (2021)

Stephen Greif & Sian Phillips performing Greek Classics Just A Little Murder with Sword

Bios

Sian Phillips performing Greek Classics Just A Little Murder

Siâ n Phillips

Siân Phillips was born and brought up in Wales. She won the National Eisteddfod at the age of 11 and started broadcasting the same year. She took a degree at the University of Wales and at the same time became an announcer and newsreader at the BBC and a leading member of the Arts Council’s company in an attempt to found a national theatre of Wales. She toured playing Welsh versions of Chekhov and new plays by Saunders Lewis. Subsequently, she trained at RADA where she was awarded the Bancroft Gold Medal.

 

Siân's many stage roles at the RSC, the National and in the West End have ranged from Shakespeare, Wilde and Shaw to new plays and musicals such as Pal Joey, Cabaret and A Little Night Music. She is a multiple Olivier, Tony and Drama Desk nominee and has been awarded Baftas for her television work and Lifetime Achievement awards for radio drama and Welsh television. Her acclaimed two-part autobiography Private Faces and Public Places (Hodder) will be re-issued this autumn.

 

Siân was made CBE and the DBE and is a Member of the Welsh Gorsedd of Bards of Great Britain.

David Stuttard - Greek Classics Just A Little Murder

David Stuttard

David Stuttard is a writer, lecturer, theatre director, dramaturg and Fellow of Goodenough College, London, who also serves on the advisory board of The Transatlantic Forum for Education and Diplomacy (TFED). His most recent book, Phoenix, about the Persian Wars and Rise of Athens, was published by Harvard University Press earlier this year.

‘Over the past twenty-five years, no-one has done more than Stuttard to keep classical Greek drama alive on the English stage. Stuttard’s translations of Medea, The Bacchae and Lysistrata are among the best contemporary performance texts of Greek plays’ (Literary Review).

‘David Stuttard is a classicist well-known for translating and directing Greek plays. His career represents an admirable commitment to popularising classical culture and making it accessible to new non-specialist audiences’ (Current World Archaeology). Further details:

www.davidstuttard.com

Stephen performing Greek Classics Just A Little Murder

Stephen Greif

Stephen Greif is a RADA Honours Graduate and Kendal and Emil Littler award Winner for Best Actor. He has worked extensively in the Theatre at The Prospect Theatre (Richard II and Edward II (with Ian Mackellan) and with many seasons at The National Theatre at The Old Vic under Laurence Olivier and on the South Bank under Peter Hall and Nicholas Hytner. Also at The RSC.

 

Stephen won best actor nominations in the Laurence Olivier and the London Critics awards for Death of a Salesman and Saturday Sunday Monday respectively.

 

Stephen's West End Work includes Fallen Angels opposite Felicity Kendal and Francis De La Tour and Reflected Glory opposite Albert Finney. His vast body of TV work includes The Alienist, The Crown (both for Netflix), Sewers of Gold, New Tricks, Coronation St, Eastenders, Blake’s 7 and Citizen Smith. Films include Risen, Casanova, Spartan and most recently Gerry with Joan Collins. He won the BBC Audio award for his narration of The Boy with the Magic Numbers by Sally Gardner. Details of his wide range of Radio and Voice work is available, together with further other credits, at his website

www.stephengreif.com

Simon McKay and Fenella Fielding Foundation, Fenella Fielding Archive

Simon McKay

Simon McKay is a psychotherapist by profession. Away from that, he worked with Fenella Fielding on various projects including her memoirs 'Do You Mind If I Smoke?' (published by Peter Owen, 2017).

Since Fenella's death, Simon has established the Fenella Fielding Foundation to celebrate her life and career. He will continue with the projects they had intended to do together in her lifetime. He is currently cataloguing her extensive archive and will use that as the basis for an exhibition about her life and releasing CDs and DVDs of her work. The first project will be an exhibition of new portraits of her based on unseen photos.
 

Any money raised by the foundation will benefit charitable courses, most likely as donations to an established charity such as RADA scholarship fund (in keeping with the RADA scholarship Fenella benefitted from when she was starting out). Further details: www.fenellafielding.com

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