Perhaps the first feminist play, Lysistrata was a subversive laugh riot. It is a hilarious go at the relationships between men and women. Using bawdy props, ribald imagery and risqué dialogues, Aristophanes pokes fun at war and human relationships.

Aristophanes' Lysistrata is not as much about sexual chemistry as it is about sexual politics. The play is a hilarious go at the relationships between men and women. Using bawdy props, ribald imagery and risqué dialogues, Aristophanes pokes fun at war and human relationships.

So, when a theatre group plans to stage this period play when the mores were different (or at least the hypocrisy about the mores was different), then you cannot but wait for the play with trepidation. A play where the explicit and double entendre are the norm, can it be pulled off in Hyderabad?

On a bare stage, a soldier sharpens his sword for the battle. A little later he lies died and a woman weeps for him. The woman (Lysistrata) spots Calonice. Their thoughts turn to men. How they have been fighting, how they treat women and how they behave on the bed. Lysistrata wants to end the Peloponnesian war that has been going on for the past 21 years and she has a subversive idea that reaches out to both the Athenians and the Spartans.

Lysistrata gets women of other city states to meet her if they want to end the battle that is taking away husbands from women and lovers from young girls.

Enter four more women, “I couldn't find my girdle in the dark,” giggles Myrrhine, “but if this is important then tell me.”

The women are flabbergasted when Lysistrata reveals her idea of keeping off men so that they stop fighting. The women rebel, but then come around when Lysistrata reveals the possibilities. In a big bowl they pour wine and take an oath:

“To husband or lover I'll not open arms

Though love and denial may enlarge his charms…”

The women fall over each other to sup the wine, even as they doubt whether they can stick to the oath.

The battle on the field ends and the battle of the sexes begins. As Myrrhine's husband Cinesias walks in dragging an oversized phallic appendage desperate for love, Lysistrata instructs her to play with him. She gets a bed, then a mattress, then a pillow, then a bedsheet and then scented oil as he works himself up to a frenzy waiting for her. Then Myrrhine upturns the bed and walks away.

The men work themselves into a lather, “How can women decide anything about war,” is the refrain from both the warring sides. A clutch of old men and women also get into the act and inject more laughter with their dialogues.

In the end, the women triumph, the war ends and the old man and woman walk into the sunset.

Poornima Maudgil as the wily, tittering and feminine Myrrhine shone out with her performance as did Spriha Neogi as the earthy and natural Calonice. Kashif Ali as the Magistrate in a spot of bother was a laugh riot as was Pranaav Pingle as the love-struck Cinesias. Oh, Lysistrata? Anupama Nayak gave another meaning to stoicism as she conducted the battle of sexes with aplomb, never mind, if she had to bite her lips while administering the bawdy oath to her pals.