Oresteia is what they call a classic. A Greek trilogy that premiered in Athens in 458BC.
It has been remade and portrayed differently around the globe for millennia. Most recently, Oresteia has moved to the West End after a sellout season at the Almedia theatre. Robert Icke’s interpretation has turned tradition on its head with this modern adaptation.
The story itself hasn’t really changed, just modernised. The plot still richly hinges on filicide and revenge. Agamemnon (Angus Wright), is a father who kills his daughter to win favour with his army and win a brutal and lengthy war. The absence of her husband and the death of her daughter, sends his wife, Clytemnestra, mad with rage and retribution. Crazed by grief, Clytemnestra becomes a husband-slayer in a graphic striking scene overlaid with innuendo.
Lia Williams brings Clytemnestra to life. Her very primal screams sent chills down my spine. Goosebumps ran across my arms as Williams’ holding a steely disposition starred down the onset camera to confess a suicide attempt.
In her theatre debut, Jessica Brown Findlay, playing Electra, brings a similar playfulness she displayed as Lady Sybil in the hit TV series Downton Abbey.
The show pivots around the son of Agamemnon and Clytemnestra, Orestes. The presence of an inquisitive therapist (Brown) eventually revealing as in fact, a prosecutor piecing together evidence. Orestes is on trial for the murder of his mother.
A minimsalistic approach to the set, sees a stark white dining suite, some creative spot-lighting and sliding glass panelling to change the set from scene to scene.
The audience is directly addressed in an unusual approach I haven’t seen before. Breaks and intermissions being announced by a robotic McGuinness. The question of guilt or inncence poised right to the very end.
I left feeling somewhat conflicted. As memories prove unreliable, individuals remember events and occurances how they wish to remember them, not necessarily factually. While Icke’s adaptation may prove too extreme for traditionalists, I found it sufficient albiet lengthy and drawn out in parts.
Reviewed by Roma Small
Photo: Tristram Kenton
Oresteia is playing at the Trafalgar Studios until November 7 2015. Click here for tickets