Elena Sirett on Maenad

Elena Sirett’s show Maenad, is inspired by the maenad, the female followers of the god of wine, partying, violence and madness, Dionysus, and the ancient Greek tragedy The Bacchae by Euripidies which follows one maenad.

Written and performed by Sirett, it features direction and dramaturgy by Katie Overstall and dramaturgy from Chloë Lawrence-Taylor. Early reviews have praised the work as “a bleak, brutal, and brilliant meditation.”

Ahead of opening we spoke with Sirett to find out more about Maenad

Q&A with Elena Sirett

What can you tell us about your show, Maenad?

Maenad is my first show, it is a very loose adaptation of the ancient Greek tragedy The Bacchae by Euripidies. I have always been fascinated by contemporary updates of ancient stories. By bringing the maenad into the modern day I aimed to use this figure to explore gender, sexuality, addiction and mental health. I am an eclectic writer who struggles to settle on a single form of expression. Maenad embodies this, using song, poetry, monologue and comedy all at once to convey the cacophony of being.

When did you first come across the story of Dionysus’ maenads – did the inspiration for the show come straight away?

I first came across maenads as a concept when studying The Bacchae at University, however my adoption of the name didn’t come till several years later when I put together an EP titled Maenad. I chose that title because the content of the songs (some of which have ended up in the show) related to self-destructive partying, sex, mental illness, violence and substance abuse- all of these themes seemed to me to be embodied by the mythic maenad. From here I began to consider the potential inner life of a contemporary maenad and eventually returned to The Bacchae and used the text as a starting point from which to form my own original work.

How does it feel to be performing the show as part of A Pinch of VAULT?

It feels great! I love the VAULT fest and everything it stands for. It is an absolute dream to be taking part!

How do you think audiences will react to the show?

I had a friend message me today and tell me that they were looking forward to taking a new partner to see Maenad since they felt that my show portrays the inner chaos of living with certain mental illnesses in a way that will help them explain their own struggles to this new person in their life. I hope something like this is the case for everyone who sees my show, that they either feel that something of themselves is represented or that they feel more able to understand and extend compassion to people in their lives who deal with the same difficult things I do.

What are your plans following A Pinch of VAULT?

I am currently working on an audio-play version of Maenad, my plan is to eventually release this version and thus make the show accessible to people who are unable to attend in person. I also hope to perform the show again perhaps in tandem with this release!

Maenad is at The Spacement at The Glitch on 25 February