THE leader of Trafford Council was booed as he introduced an ancient Greek play.
Cllr Sean Anstee received a hostile reception from the crowd at the Exchange Theatre in Manchester when he introduced a new production of The Suppliant Women by Greek playwright Aeschylus.
The 2,500-year-old play, which opened on Friday, started with the ancient Greek dramatic tradition of reading out the names of those who supported and paid for the play.
One of the play’s stars, Omar Ebrahim, then announced Cllr Anstee, who came onto stage to introduce the production.
Cllr Anstee got as far as introducing himself as the Conservative leader of Trafford Council and candidate for mayor of Greater Manchester, when a murmuring rippled through the crowd, followed by boos and hisses.
Unfazed, Cllr Anstee continued, asking the crowd to vote for him in the forthcoming mayoral election.
The crowd warmed to him as his speech continued, and by the time he had performed a libation – another ancient Greek tradition, in which a bottle of wine is poured around the stage as an offering to the gods – the boos had turned to laughter.
“I don’t normally have this much left after opening a bottle of wine,” he joked, as he took away the half-empty bottle.
Later, Cllr Anstee told Messenger he was not aware of any hostile reception.
He said: "It was a privilege and honour to be able to open the first showing of The Suppliant Women at the Royal Exchange Theatre and offer the libation."
In introducing the play, he was re-enacting the ancient Greek tradition of a leading citizen – representing the community – offering a blessing before a performance.
One member of the audience, who asked not to be named, said: “I’m not sure why people were booing – maybe it was because he’s a Conservative politician introducing a play about showing compassion towards asylum seekers.”
Another said: “I really wanted to shout ‘save Flixton green belt’, but I didn’t want to get thrown out.”
Cllr Anstee did not stay to watch the play, and after taking his seat, left the auditorium less than a minute into the action.
The Suppliant Women tells the story of a group of migrant women who flee Egypt to escape marriage.
They seek refuge in the city of Argos, in Greece, where the king pledges to protect them from the men of Egypt, risking war.
The unusual play, one of the oldest in existence, features a chorus of 40 amateur women, with much of the dialogue conducted in rhythmical chanting.
The original text has been reworked by writer David Grieg and director Ramin Gray, and features new composition and choreography.
The Suppliant Women runs until Saturday, April 1.