Greek ‘tragedy’ – a holiday plan that seemed a great idea at the time

Herod theatre in Greece

There we were, on a cold grey Melbourne day plotting our trip to Greece in a few months’ time. ‘What about a concert at the Herod Atticus Theatre?’ came the plaintive cry of one of the mad travellers.

The theatre is over 2000 years old, part of the Acropolis precinct with only the Parthenon looming above it. To sit on one of the marble steps, albeit with a cushion for modern bottoms, is to feel the weight of history, to ponder who else has sat on this same seat and to marvel and wonder at what plays the ancient Greeks would have seen performed here. Was it Euripides’ Medea, was it Antigone or The Women of Troy?

The only concert playing was an opera – Bellini’s Norma, which neither of the travellers knew, but what the heck, the setting alone was enough to seal the deal and tickets were purchased. But quelle horreur, it didn’t start until nine at night, the usual Greek time to head out for the evening.

Momentary misgivings

Some misgivings were muttered momentarily but neither woman was deterred and, of course, it was months away they rationalised.

However, as all plans do, the idea was greater than the actuality. From leaving home, flying to Athens and making their way to the theatre, some 40 hours had passed without, it felt, a wink of sleep. The travellers were not just tired but borderline hysterical.

They took their seats or more correctly put their bums on a cushioned piece of marble and gawped and marvelled at the scene in front of them – a few thousand people tiered above and below them, waiting in anticipation. The first half of the performance went well, the plot a little thin – Druids versus Romans with a tale of infidelity and a love triangle thrown in, the singing quite acceptable and the full moon rising over the ancient arches an added bonus of wonder.

Dramatic conclusion

But by the last act, micro sleeps viciously attacked the weary travellers, both heads nodding forward then suddenly and savagely jolting back upright. Fear replaced tiredness as they anticipated plunging headlong and unconscious into the people in front of them, imagining setting off a cascade of opera lovers tumbling down the tiers, limbs and arms flailing everywhere.

They gripped each other, support in numbers – if one goes down then all go down was the unspoken theory. To add agony, the last operatic denouement took forever. From betrayal to declarations of love, the performers all wailed their existential angst. Just bloody hurry up and die, thought the weary travellers, not caring much who it would be. As the final aria sounded and the Druid priestess threw herself on the pyre, (why is it always the fat lady who dies?), the travellers heaved a sigh of relief and crept their way out of the venue, forever vowing sleep over culture.

Have you ever been overzealous with your holiday planning and wished you could cancel a booked outing once you got there? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

Also read: A tragic, but saucy, tale from hospital

Written by Dianne Motton

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