"It's only a story, a collection of stories. From long, long ago."
Gaius (sometimes Caius or Titus) Petronius wrote The Satyricon in the first century CE/AD. Encolpius, the narrator, who is either a gladiator or a student, tells the story of his adventures with his boyfriend Giton and their friend Ascyltos. Much of what happens to them is sexual - jealousies and complications between the three and various episodes of seduction by the many women and men they encounter on their travels. Add in tales of theft, deception and disguise, a lengthy feast given by wealthy boor Trimalchio and various pleasant and painful treatments Encolpius undergoes to recover from impotence, and you have the original picaresque novel that never fails to entertain.
Although the text we have is long and would take hours to relate, much of The Satyricon is missing. It begins in the middle of a speech that Encolpius is giving in the Forum and ends abruptly in a scene with another character; more than once Encolpius and his companions disappear from one place and turn up in another; allusions are made to characters and episodes that no longer appear. To make the story coherent, many people, from the seventeenth-century French writer Francis Nodot to the Italian film director Federico Fellini in the 1960s, have created their versions of Petronius' work. We are doing the same, with the difference that our play is introduced by and commented on by Petronius himself, who points out passages that he did not write. With him are a group of actors who straddle the past and the present and who help us look behind the comedy to see some of the tragedy that lay at the heart of Roman life.
During the 2020 health crisis, we are telling the story of The Satyricon - at least our version of it - on Twitter. See the link on the right and scroll back to the first tweet
(1/∞) in March. In November you can
come to the theatre, where Petronius will introduce our three protagonists (they're not good-looking or virtuous or intelligent enough to be heroes). There will be chases and violence and various couplings and the audience will laugh and sigh and be surprised and shocked by what they see.
Those people at the back of the stage? They're the Actors, waiting to be called to fulfill this role or that. Ah, they're coming together now as the Crowd for the first scene. Our three young men have just arrived in the city and Encolpius cannot resist the opportunity to harangue the public on any topic that comes to mind. A pity that Giton is nowhere to be seen and Ascyltos has also wandered off - particularly because Encolpius cannot remember where their lodgings are. But luckily that old woman is helping him. Or is she? Is that really the right direction? Why is she pushing him into that building?
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