Annie Siddons’ new play, Dennis of Penge, takes a new twist on an old theme, using The Bacchae of Euripides as the backbone of a story of modern political and personal neglect and its dire consequences. Euripides’ play The Bacchae is about the refusal of a political leader to acknowledge the rites due to Dionysus (Bacchus in Latin) the Greek god of wine and fertility and the personal and social disaster that results when the god returns in disguise to seek revenge. In Siddons’ play, the god hidden among the locals is Dennis, the owner of a fast-food chicken shop who has returned to South London to shake things up. Sidon’s update of the play successfully transposes the theme to a modern setting where both sides of Dionysus, sometimes a liberator but also the god of madness and frenzy appear.

The performance introduces us to the lives of some memorable local residents whose pains and struggles are narrated as part of a dynamic, quick-moving performance. The original score by Asaf Zohar deserves a special mention. It is good enough to stand on its own but plays an important role in following precisely the mood and action on stage and helping move things along when they slow down. The narration is well-delivered, lyrical, poetic and humorous – the pattern becomes a bit predictable and this is where the music helps. This is a performance well-worth seeing – lighting, costumes and direction all work well together. Part of the success here is that the performance manages to be serious and light at the same time, and also to convey something positive from the undercurrent of powerful feeling about social and personal justice that runs throughout and shines in the performance.