by Aeschylus adapted by Rory Mullarkey.
Shakespeare’s Globe 21 New Globe Walk Bankside SE1 9DT In rep to 16 October 2015.
Runs 3hr 5min Two intervals.
TICKETS: 020 7401 9919.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 3 September.
Hardly home from home.
There are similarities between the theatres of classical Greece and Elizabethan England, but Shakespearean drama created individuals with complex natures. His stage was crafted for speech that had its rhetorical elements but was human, realistic and character-related.
Years ago the point was illustrated at a Greek and Elizabethan-derived theatre, Sheffield’s Crucible, by Mike Alfreds’ production of The Merchant of Venice. Alfreds linked it to popular 16th-century Italian commedia dell’ arte, with its fixed types of masked character. It hardly proved fair trade, the masks and associated movement draining the Merchant’s humour with its humanity.
Adele Thomas’s production of Rory Mullarkey’s carefully-wrought translation doesn’t use masks. But nor does it accommodate the Elizabethan stage, the democratic playhouse of rough and tumble, where groundlings gathered around the rogues and vagabonds performing – with the religious dramatic occasions where the Greeks sat looking down at the action, aware of their priests near the altar prominent in the auditorium.
The first third plays well enough, though Agamemnon seems closer to a husband back from a fire-watching shift, not wanting to spoil the carpet than a commander returning after 10 years’ war. Despite a long dress with patterns suggesting mystic significance, Clytemnestra has less force and character in voice than appearance.
The Chorus, moving from concerned commuters in act one to wild possessed people in the middle section capture the impact of murder on the community, and there’s strong contrast between Orestes’ fearful mother’s restrained pretence of grief at news of his death, and the outpouring of sorrow from his nurse.
An action that’s started seeming too compressed by the second interval becomes sketchily hurried in the short last act. The goddess Athene, bathetic in speech if shimmering in costume, talks of an equal vote when there are 11 people voting on Orestes’ fate.
Worse, the crucial decision determining Orestes’ fate and the values of a society passes for little as the Globe’s Elizabethan post-play jig combines with a hint at Greek tragedies’ satyr-play ‘afterpiece’ in a procession holding aloft a giant gilded penis. Which hardly summarises the play – not as Aeschylus intended, anyway.
Cassandra/Chorus: Naana Agyei-Ampadu.
Aegisthus: Trevor Fox.
Herald/Chorus: Dennis Herdman.
Electra/Chorus: Rosie Hilal.
Agamemnon/Apollo: George Irving.
Athena: Branka Katic.
Orestes: Joel MacCormack.
Cillisa/Chorus: Petra Massey.
Pylades: Sid Sagar.
Clytemnestra: Katy Stephens.
Chorus: James Lailey, Dean Nolan, Brendan O’Hea, Paul Rider, Dickon Tyrell.
Supernumaries: Emily Dunn, Holly Georgia.
Borough Market Choir
Director: Adele Thomas.
Designer: Hannah Clark.
Composer: Mira Calix.
Musical Director: Sarah Homer.
Choir Musical Director: Esmerelda Conde Ruiz.
Music Supervisor: Bill Barclay.
Choreographer: Lucy Burge.
Globe associate – Movement: Glynn Macdonald.
Greek Text consultant: Dr Lucy Jackson.
Voice/Dialect: Martin McKellan.
Fight director: Kevin McCurdy.