by Aeschylus new adaptation created by Robert Icke.
Trafalgar Studios (Studio 1) 14 Whitehall SW1A 2DY To 7 November 2015.
Mon-Sat 7pm Mat Thu & Sat 1pm.
Runs 3hr 30min Two intervals.
TICKETS: 0844 871 7632.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 7 September.
Bold, gripping and innovative.
When Robert Icke’s production opened at Islington’s Almeida Theatre in May, it was the only Aeschylus around. Now it’s joined by one at Shakespeare’s Globe, with another opening at Home, Manchester next month, making a Trilogy of Oresteias. Icke’s innovative version brilliantly elides classical Greece and the modern psycho-analytical world.
Carole Woddis praised it in Islington, and I agree – if anything more so, since I found the Greek concept of Fate – always bound in tragedies to character – still present, internalised into individual consciousness, affected by experience and memories submerged or distorted in dreams.
Shaped this way, Oresteia is evidently at the root of serious drama, with deadly family feuds, a cycle of revenge and court-room tension. Hamlet included; in both a young man plans revenge for a murdered royal father, while his mother lives with another, hated, man. Court-room tension is emphasised by making Aeschylus’ closing trial scene the frame for the whole action.
Agamemnon tussles with commands that, like the Biblical Abraham, he sacrifice a child. Giving frequent TV interviews, screens replicate his image close-up, then freeze to record the real-time of each murder. Intercut, from the sides, the adult Orestes is also interviewed, pre-trial, by a psychologist probing repressed memories that could influence the verdict on his matricide.
On a sleekly austere stage Hildegard Bechtler’s design adds simultaneous images to these simultaneous time zones. Glass screens lead to the fatal bath, while allowing figures to appear insubstantial, like more or less recovered memories. Orestes and his younger sister Iphigenia first appear as children. She, her father’s victim, never grows-up. Orestes does but his older sister Electra is never a child with them and disappears later, as if a self-protective figment of his tortured mind.
Nor are the actors incidental to the conception, among a fine cast, Oliver Ryan brings calmly official ruthlessness, Angus Wright makes clear the growing agony of decision in Agamemnon, while his wife Clytemnestra, often the husband-slaying dragon seeking revenge for their dead daughter, is given complex sympathy by Lia Williams. A slight, sleek figure, she’s the intense emotional centre to the action.
Cast: Lorna Brown, Jessica Brown Findlay, Annie Firbank, Joshua Higgott, Jonathan McGuinness, Oliver Ryan, Luke Thompson, Lia Williams, Angus Wright, Hara Yannas.
Children: Cleopatra Dickens, Dixie Egerickx, Ilan Galkoff, Matt Goldberg, Cameron Lane, Ophelia Standen.
Director: Robert Icke.
Designer: Hildegard Bechtler.
Lighting: Natasha Chivers.
Sound: Tom Gibbons.
Video: Tim Reid.
Associate director: Anthony Almeida.
Consultant academic: Simon Goldhill.
Dramaturg: Duška Radosavljevic.
Assistant lighting: Peter Harrison.
Associate sound: Sean Ephgrave, Pete Malkin.