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A Festival of Women is a version by Ian Fletcher of Thesmophoriazusae (411 BC), a comedy by Aristophanes, the title of which is literally translated as ‘Women Celebrating the Festival of the Thesmophoria’. It provided the basis of a production that was first broadcast by the BBC on Network Three on 1 January 1965. That production was repeated on Radio 4 on 5 June 1970, and Eric Fraser’s illustration was published in Radio Times in order to advertise it.
The play may be summarised as follows: the tragic playwright, Euripedes, is concerned that the women of Athens are angry with him because of the way that he has portrayed the female characters of his plays. As a result, he disguises his elderly relative, Mnesilochus, as a woman and sends him to spy on those attending the exclusively female festival of Thesmophoria, dedicated to Demeter, the goddess of fertility. Mnesilochus is discovered and arrested, and Euripedes has to make a series of attempts to rescue him, while dressed as characters – both male and female – from his plays. Euripedes eventually makes peace with the women in his own form, and succeeds in helping Mnesilochus to escape.