Electra: By Sophocles, In a version by Frank McGuinness.
Old Vic Theatre,
London SE1 8NB
7.30pm; Wed & Sat 3pm
Runs: 1 hr 40 mins without interval. To 20 December
Tickets: By phone: 0844 871 7628
Mon-Fri 9am-7.30pm, Sat 9am-4pm & Sun 9.30am-4pm
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Box Office, The Old Vic, The Cut, London SE1 8NB
Monday-Saturday 10am-7pm (except when there are no performances, then the Box office will close at 6pm).
Review by Carole Woddis of performance seen Oct 6, 2014:
Into the heart of darkness.
Greek tragedy has the most extraordinary power to move us still today. Though written over two thousand years ago, with its concentration on the darkest of human emotions how could it not? Human behaviour has changed little over the millennia.
I’d like to say I was blown away by the Old Vic’s latest Electra. Ian Rickson’s stylish, spare production in the theatre’s wonderfully Greek amphitheatre-like reconfiguration takes us up as close as you would wish into the heart of darkness that Electra’s story of revenge.
Electra has witnessed the butchering of her father Agamemnon at the hands of her mother, Clytemnestra and her lover, Aegisthus, on his return from Troy. Her beloved younger brother, Orestes has been banished. Ever since, she has been confined within the family circle, condemned to endless mourning. Not for nothing has she been called the female Hamlet.
Unlike Medea, Antigone, or Phedra, Electra’s passage is an almost unalleviated cry of pain and suffering with only one course of action contemplated: Retributive murder.
`I have a job to do’, says Kristine Scott Thomas blunt speaking Electra in this Frank McGuinness version first seen in the Chichester/Donmar production in 1997 with Zoe Wanamaker.
I bow to no one in my admiration of McGuinness. But there is something about this translation and Scott Thomas’ über modern-voiced performance that cuts off engagement. On film, she is the most naked of actors. So too, here; she gives herself utterly to Electra’s anguish, cutting words like daggers in the air, rolling in the dust. Physically aged by grief, she is too a marvel as her face is transfigured, the years falling away at Orestes return.
I loved, too, Liz White’s contrasting, down-to-earth compromising sister, Chrysothemis. And Peter Wight does everything required of a Greek messenger retelling the supposed gory death of Orestes.
`As flies to wanton boys are we to the gods’, says Lear elsewhere. Throughout Sophocles’ Electra you can feel the gods manipulating human destinies, particularly Orestes. Electra is determined to control her own. In the end, she does. Justice is achieved but at what price. As she says in the play, `to be right can be wrong’.
Servant: Peter Wight
Orestes: Jack Lowden
Electra: Kristin Scott Thomas
Chorus: Julia Dearden, Golda Rosheuvel, Thalissa Teìxeìra
Chrysothemis: Liz White
Clytemnestra: Diana Quick
Aegisthus: Tyrone Higgins
Servant/Aegisthus: Colin Haigh
Orestes: Matthew Darcy
Electra: Katy Brittain
Chorus/Clytemnestra: Jenny Bolt
Chorus/Chrysothemis: Cait Davis
Chorus: Asha Reid
Director: Ian Rickson
Designer: Mark Thompson
Lighting: Neil Austin
Music: PJ Harvey
Sound: Simon Baker
Choreographer: Maxine Doyle
Casting: Sam Jones
Assistant Director: Audrey Sheffield
Assistant Set Designer: Ben Davies
Classical Consultants: Helen Eastman, Edith Hall
This version by Frank McGuinness was commissioned by Donmar Warehouse Theatre as a co-production with Duncan C Weldon for Chichester Festival Theatre.
First performance at the Minerva Theatre, Sept 10, 1997, and at the Donmar Warehouse, Oct 21, 1997.
First performance of this production at the Old Vic Theatre, London, Sept 20, 2014