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Review | Learn the ancient lessons of Hypatia of Alexandria

Hypatia | The Blue Room Theatre | Til Oct 7 | ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ 

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“My name is Hypatia, and I’m going to die.”

That’s not a spoiler, friends. Those who know their history well may have heard of Hypatia of Alexandria. Scholar, astronomer, mathematician, teacher and leader of the Neoplatonic School in Roman-occupied Alexandria in the late 300’s AD.

…but I had not heard of Hypatia. Fortunately the Open Lid Ensemble were ready and able to teach me a thing or two about the strength and enduring legacy of this brilliant and resilient woman.

As a cast of five, the troupe open the performance with a straight up history lesson, waxing lyrical about the impact of Hypatia on early understandings of the workings of our world, lamenting all that humanity might have lost – from the mind of Hypatia and other great thinkers – after the destruction of the Great Library of Alexandria.

History has framed the course of this performance; The Library will fall, and Hypatia is going to die.

Alternating between choral narration and scene work, Kat Shaw takes on the mantle of the titular character. Shaw’s Hypatia is filled with an optimism and lightness that bonds the audience to this tragic character as she gives a lesson to her enthralled students in the opening scene.

Hypatia is warned by her local prefect, Orestes, that her life independent of religion and marriage may see her in danger, as Bishop Cyril of Alexandria’s power grows along with Christianity in the region – but Hypatia will not heed his warnings. She will not be bound by other’s blinkered understandings of the world around them.

To propel the story the ensemble blend typical elements of Greek theatre with the sharp, intentional movements of Japanese Butoh. The emphatic bodily shifts of the performers heighten the drama of each scene as the battle between Cyril, his followers and Hypatia intensifies.

Though we are told Hypatia’s fate in the show’s opening lines, the Open Lid Ensemble’s striking blend of theatrical styles as well as the natural intrigue of this historical figure’s tale makes for a captivating performance throughout.

Hypatia’s story is one that the world should remember, and this performance will ensure you don’t forget it.

Leigh Andrew Hill

Hypatia will be at The Blue Room Theatre until Saturday October 7th. Tickets and more information available from blueroom.org.au

Images:- Marshall Stay


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