by Gwyneth Lewis.
Sherman Cymru (Sherman 1) Senghennydd Road CF24 4YE To 5 May 2012.
Runs 1hr 15min No interval.
TICKETS: 029 2064 6900.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 21 April.
Ambitious, visually bold production refocuses Ancient Greek tragedy.
Mrs Agamemnon, Clytemnestra was the mother who stayed at home while her husband was away fighting at Troy, then murdered him, in the bath, on his return (there was a chance, if the Greeks had shown such things, for an Ancient Greek Hitchcock).
But this new play is more than a reverse-image of Aeschylus’ Agamemnon. First, the ancient myth with its Furies and intensity of passion is matched to a modern predicament. Three watchtowers one side of the stage recall oil-rigs, for this is a society where oil is running out and food becoming scarce – it’s the search for resources that’s caused Agamemnon’s absence.
And another female character gains prominence. Cassandra, cursed to tell the truth but have no-one believe her, returns with Agamemnon, in one of the most vivid scenes stepping onto water, her body rising and falling, alternating with that of the dead Iphigenia. She’s the white-clad, white-haired creature seen walking at the start, the haunting ghost of the child her mother grieves over, at the expense of her living daughter Electra, and whom her father killed for his mission’s sake.
Designed by takis, the stage represents an unwelcoming place, a compound that’s sole protection from a world elsewhere, which former National Poet of Wales Gwyneth Lewis’s script repeatedly calls “feral”.
But it’s a compound where necessity is served: food first, then morals, a Watchman says, recalling Brecht’s Threepenny Opera, while the vast technology used for slaughtering cattle recalls the doctor in Edward Bond’s Lear, with calmly scientific descriptions of torture devices.
It’s said, when animals are all killed, the slaughter could turn to people and suggestions of blood are never far away, including the skirts that clothe the Furies, creatures imported from later parts of Aeschylus’ story, which curl themselves around the vengeful mother, then chillingly leave her, murders done, to wrap themselves around the next revenger.
Lewis’s script is best when not seeking obvious modernisms, while Amy Hodge’s production is stronger on physical images than individual characterisation. But no-one can accuse her, or the Sherman, of lacking ambition in dealing with the world on this scale.
Electra: Rhian Blythe.
Chorus 3/Watchman: Matthew Bulgo.
Clytemnestra: Jaye Griffiths.
Fury 1: Nia Gwynne.
Cassandra: Kezrena James.
Agamemnon: Nick Moss.
Fury 2/Chorus 2: Adam Redmore.
Aegisthus: Jonah Russell.
Choeus 1: Eiry Thomas.
Director: Amy Hodge.
Lighting: Les Curran.
Sound/Composer: Simon Thorne.
Choreographer: Johan Stjernholm.
Assistant director: Peter Scott.
Assistant designer: Sara Polonghini.