Playwright & Lecturer in Classical Studies
Sue Blundell is a playwright and lecturer in Classical Studies. Many of her plays have been inspired by ancient myths, ideas, and objects. More recently she’s been exploring the lives of artists and composers, such as Auguste Rodin and Benjamin Britten. Interaction between actors and musicians has become a vital element in her work.
Sue wrote her PhD thesis on Greek and Roman philosophy; more specifically, on Epicurean ideas about biological and cultural evolution. She has been a lecturer in Classical Studies at the Open University, Goldsmiths, and Birkbeck, University of London, and has given regular lectures at the British Museum. She also taught for a number of years on the Conservation course at the Architectural Association School of Architecture.
Her main area of research is the history of women in ancient Greece, and their representation in drama and the visual arts. Her other writings include work on Greek and Roman theories of evolution, Emma Hamilton’s ‘Classical Attitudes’ and their place in the 18th century Grand Tour, and the symbolism of shoes in Greek art and thought.
She has presented conference papers at universities in the UK, Europe and the US, and has been a keynote speaker on Greek footwear.
Silence and Joy
Sue’s new play about Beethoven, Silence and Joy, was due to be performed in 2020, the 250th anniversary of the composer’s birth. Sadly, the Covid-19 pandemic means that the live performances due to take place in October will have to be postponed. In the meantime, we’re working on a video-recording which will be available online.
In 1802, when he was only 31, Ludwig van Beethoven was on the edge of despair. His doctor had advised him to spend six months in a quiet village outside Vienna, in the hope that his hearing might improve.
He returned to the city knowing this would never happen. ‘A little more‘, he wrote, ‘and I would have ended my life.’
But he clung on, and 18 months later the first performance of his ‘Eroica‘ Symphony took place in Vienna. By the time he died in 1827, he was recognised as a composer whose works had changed the way we listen to music. He was also completely deaf.
Silence and Joy is a musical drama about Beethoven’s search for sublimity in the midst of desperate circumstances. His father had died of alcoholism. Most of his love affairs ended in misery. And Napoleon, his great hero, turned into a tyrant.
Meanwhile all around him there was growing silence. Yet Beethoven still struggled to capture in music the feelings of rapture he’d experienced when he first read Schiller’s ‘Ode to Joy‘.
Finally in his Ninth Symphony – completed three years before he died – those feelings were triumphantly expressed in choral music.