The Labourers of Herakles at the Workshop Theatre, Leeds

As part of a series of events during the 80th Birthday year of poet, playwright and film-maker Tony Harrison – including a screening of his film-poem The Gaze of the Gorgon (1992), a book signing, and a one-day academic conference – there was a staged reading of The Labourers of Herakles (1995) directed by George Rodosthenous (11th November 2017).

The Labourers of Herakles had its premiere performance on an excavated site intended for the New Theatre of the European Cultural Centre of Delphi in 1995. The set included nine cement mixers and a 35-foot cement silo, emblazoned with the logo of the Heracles General Cement Corporation of Greece, which sponsored the production and continues to operate today. The chorus of construction workers get trapped in the concrete they are pouring to make the orchestra of the new theatre and are possessed by the spirit of the hero Heracles in various ways that highlight the hero’s destructive impulses.

George Rodosthenous’ production also clad the chorus in hard hats, but replaced the silo and cement mixers with a screen upon which was projected material from the Tony Harrison Archive held in the Special Collections of the Brotherton Library University of Leeds, representing not only a local link to Leeds, but also Harrison’s contribution to the cultural heritage underpinning the performance.

Ħard-hatted labourers of Herakles standing before a screen with projected archive image.

The Labourers of Herakles, staged reading. The photo has been adjusted so that the screen does not show archive material.

The series of events was supported by the University of Leeds (ULPC – the University of Leeds Poetry Centre, the School of Languages, Cultures and Societies and CePRA – the Centre for Practice-Led Research in the Arts) and the Classical Association and Society for the Promotion of Hellenic Studies. The one-day academic conference was organised by Owen Hodkinson. For full details of the conference programme, see Tony Harrison at 80.

Resources to accompany The Labourers of Herakles – the programme and a talk on the play by Owen Hodkinson – appear in the Resources area of this site under Performance.