by Aeschylus

directed by Adam Henderson

A United Players of Vancouver production

at Jericho Arts Centre

November 9 - December 2, 2018






Spotlight Article by Sabrina Furminger


There is much about Aeschylus’ play The Suppliant Women that feels urgent and timely – its centering of refugees; its cast of marginalized women fighting for their rights – and yet the fierce and fast-moving drama was first performed long before our own embattled age, in 463BC.

A boat arrives on the shores of Argos, and a wave of refugees steps onto the land. These refugees are mostly young Egyptian women who have fled their homeland so as not to be forced into violent, loveless marriages with their cousins. They are accompanied by their father, who stands by his daughters in their determination to maintain agency over their bodies and their lives. Now the King of Argos faces a grave choice: does he provide a safe haven to the refugees, risking war with Egypt? Does he put the matter in the hands of the gods? Does he consult with his people?

And King Argos doesn’t have much time to make his decision: an Egyptian boat has been spotted just off the coast of Argos, and its angry occupants are intent on re-claiming what they believe is rightly theirs.

The Suppliant Women is one of the oldest plays in the world, says Adam Henderson, director of United Players’ production – and yet its focus on migration, women’s rights, and self-determination are enormously resonant more than 2500 years after its first performance. 

“I’m always fascinated looking at these plays about social politics in terms of their historical context because you think, two and a half thousand years, and we have moved forward about an inch, and this play puts that in really strong relief,” says Henderson.

The Suppliant Women was likely the first in a trilogy of plays, but the only one to survive, says Henderson, adding “it must have been very popular [in its time], because otherwise it wouldn’t exist.” In Ancient Greece, theatre was an essential part of the democratic process, and tragedies like The Suppliant Women were especially important in illuminating the nuances of important issues.

“What tragedy does is it presents the difficulty of coming to a simple black and white answer, and it’s something the Greeks seem to understand is that huge grey area between what was the right thing to do and what was the wrong thing to do, and that you could try to do the right thing and end up creating a disaster,” says Henderson. “What they were doing was raising the difficulty of working it out; the difficulty of how you work out what the right course of action is when you’re caught between two potential disasters.”

In The Suppliant Women, the hero of the play is the 11-member chorus. “Usually the chorus in Greek tragedy is used to comment on the action, but in this case, the 11 women are the people who the story is about, and since I’m doing a play about women in a time of enormous social upheaval, it was very important to me that it wasn’t a top-down process with me, the male director, telling everybody what to do, so it’s been a very collaborative process,” says Henderson. The actresses represent a range of ages, ethnicities, and accents – and this serves the play because it’s about “the process of being foreign, and of trying to join into a new culture that will not treat you as badly,” says Henderson.  

Audiences should expect an intense experience that lingers for days and weeks after the play is over.

“There’s singing and there’s dancing and there’s movement, and there are expressions of joy and expressions of pure misery,” says Henderson. “The Greeks were very much into catharsis, which essentially means that the process of going to see the play would relieve you of some of the burden of your own anxieties and fears, and it would allow you to express some of the emotions that stay trapped up inside us.”

“I find this play makes me feel enormously,” adds Henderson. “It’s been quite exhausting to work in, because it’s a time of enormous world angst, and this play is a really good vehicle for an expression of that, so it’s allowed us as a company to explore that in ourselves: our own anxieties and our own rage and our own frustrations, and we’re very much applying that to the show.”


United Players’ production of The Suppliant Women stars, as the Danaids, Noella Ansaldi, Jessica-Jean Braun, Sally Clark, Mika DeNeige, Breanne Doyle, Dahlia Kerr, Amy Laity, Islay McKechnie, Valerie Neduha, Kaelee Steele, and Tara Webster, with Douglas Abel, Jeremy Burtenshaw, Isidro Rodriguez, and Jake Anthony.

The production team includes Adam Henderson (Director), Andree Karas (Artistic Director), Michael Methot (Technical Director), John Harris (Producer), Andy Sandberg (Stage Manager), Tim Gerwing (Composer), John R. Taylor (Set Designer), C.S. Fergusson-Vaux (Costume Designer), Jacob Wan (Lighting Designer), Linda Begg (Props), Frances Herzer (Props), Zakk Harris (Audio Designer), Kimira Bhikum (Masks), Lisa Peers (Consultant to Director), and Cara McDowell (Consultant to Director).


Adam Henderson has directed: Figaro, Democracy, London Assurance, Way of the World, Power of Yes, Present Laughter, Breath of Life, The Circle, Constant Wife, Aristocrats (United Players); Buddy (Persephone); Pillowman (Firehall); American Pilot, Romance, and at London’s Almeida and the Edinburgh Festival. He has danced at Covent Garden, and acted in London’s West End and National Theatre and in Vancouver in Godot, Peer Gynt, Mary Stuart, Skull in Connemara, Dial ‘M’, Cyrano, Arturo Ui, Plan B, Winter Harp, and Beckett’s All That Fall. Adam directed Nell Gwynn last season for United Players.


Aeschylus (c. 525/524 – c. 456/455 BC) was an ancient Greek playwright often described as the father of tragedy. According to Aristotle, Aeschylus expanded the number of characters in the theatre and was the first to allow conflict among them; characters previously had interacted only with the chorus. Only seven of Aeschylus’ estimated 70 to 90 plays have survived; these include The Persians, Seven against Thebes, The Suppliant Women, The Oresteia (considered the earliest example of a trilogy of plays to survive), Agamemnon, The Libation Bearers, and The Eumenides.

-With files from Wikipedia


At the Jericho Arts Centre - 1675 Discovery (near Jericho Beach)

November 9 - December 2, 2018

Thursday through Sunday, at 8 pm
(2pm only on November 18 & 25, December 2)

$14 Preview: November 8
Talkback: November 15

Matinees: November 18 & 25, December 2 at 2pm
(no evening performances on those dates)

Single Tickets: $22 - $28

Jericho Arts Centre

1675 Discovery Street, Vancouver, B.C. V6R 4K5

TICKETS:Online or call 604 224 8007, ext. 2

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