by Sophocles new version by Nick Payne.
Gate Theatre above Prince Albert Pub 11 Pembridge Road W11 3HQ To 14 May.
Mon-Sat 7.30pm Mat Sat 3pm.
Audio-described 14 May 3pm.
Captioned 12 May.
Post-show Discussion 19 April, 12 May.
Runs 1hr 20min One interval.
TICKETS: 020 7229 0706.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 13 April.
Short, sharp shock of a production.
While ancient Greek tragic heroes struggled with their nature and fate, only Euripides looked convincingly at the world through women. Sophocles’ famous females, Antigone and Electra, translate today as purists for principle, or examples of unbalanced intensity, contrasted by more latitudinarian – or sensible – sisters.
Antigone defies everyone to bury a brother. In Carrie Cracknell’s production – which strips–down even further Nick Payne’s stripped-down script – Electra becomes intent on unburying her father. Famously she’s the daughter living for brother Orestes to arrive and take revenge on her mother, plus mother’s lover, who jointly murdered her father Agamemnon.
The opening moments here are amazing – wordless, they present brief images of Electra’s intensity, her younger self from happier days and mother Clytemnestra in the palace. Amazing because there is no palace. A long strip of stage, one audience row around it, is the only set. Each actor somehow places themselves in total darkness for these first images, getting on and off a restricted space without bruises or breaks.
What follows maintains intensity as Orestes and friend Strophius arrive, initially sending news they bring Orestes’ ashes. In fury, Electra flips, loudly smashing the floor, effortfully removing its tiled elegance and trying to lie in her father’s earthy grave.
Sophocles didn’t have to trouble himself with individual psychology – the words were the character. But now: does the child Electra carry within her mind the seeds of the intensity Cath Whitefield’s character lives by? Her face muscles never have a moment’s repose from horror and disgust until Orestes turns up. Theatrically, this moral absolutism demands attention, rather than more relaxed sister Chrysothemis.
Madeleine Potter’s Clytemnestra carries the glamour of a morally relaxed woman, while there’s a cold hesitancy at the news of her son’s death. The hands are open, Electra’s tight-fisted.
For the visitors, Martin Turner gives Strophius a realistic concern that passionate outpourings will ruin the murder. Alex Price’s Alex is as contained as Electra. The murder, caught in images, is long and bloody, carried out by both men, and Cracknell cuts-off her brief, brutal, minimal version with a determined threat of more to come.
Chrysothemis: Natasha Broomfield.
Young Electra: Fern Deacon/Yasmin Garrad.
Clytemnestra: Madeleine Potter.
Orestes: Alex Price.
Strophius: Martin Turner.
Electra: Cath Whitefield.
Director: Carrie Cracknell.
Designer: Holly Waddington.
Lighting: Guy Hoare.
Sound/Composer: Tom Mills.
Movement: Georgina Lamb.
Assistant director: Stella Odunlami.