Writer: Aeschylusin a new version by Robert Icke
Director: Robert Icke
Reviewer: Elizabeth Vile
Robert Icke’s new version of Aeschylus’ Oresteia explodes onto the Almeida stage in a dark, complex, heartbreaking and inevitably bloody production. Icke has brought Aeschylus’ trilogy bang up to date in his epic interpretation of the story of Agamemnon and his family and how one ‘sign’ destroys them all.
With a running time of 3hours 40 minutes with two intervals, it is vital that this piece is captivating and absorbing throughout, and on the whole it is. The main story is coherent and detailed and the characters are well developed and sensitively created. By focusing on Agamemnon’s family the audience is really able to become emotionally involved with the characters, and really experience the pain and suffering they go through as outside events and interpretations pull their family apart. Dilemmas faced seem painfully current and this creates intense moments of tension throughout as the audience is unable to predict the course of the plot as there is no ‘right’ answer.
By cleverly using real time and looking at the events through the eyes of Orestes as he tries to make sense of his past the interpretation is slick, intriguing and deeply unsettling.
The cast are all top class, and in true Greek style are all part of the chorus, as well as taking on the rôles of individual characters. Lia Williams as the wronged Klytemnestra is, at first, loving and dutiful, but soon becomes angry, vengeful and broken. Her transformation is effectively done and harrowing to watch. Angus Wright, as the tortured soul Agamemnon, creates sympathy and hatred within the audience in equal measure. Luke Thompson and Jessica Brown Findlay take on the challenging rôles of Orestes and Electra respectively in a mature and powerful way. Special mention must go to the two child actors (Clara Read and Bobby Smalldridge). Their focused performances really add to the emotional depth of the piece and to the emotional power created.
Sadly, due to the limited rake of the Almeida stalls, sections of the play that took place laying or seated on the floor cannot always be seen clearly and this was a real shame, for a piece so wordy and complicated everything needs to be seen to keep audience focus and understanding high as well as adding to their enjoyment.
Overall, this is an incredibly clever, at times loud, intense and absorbing piece that never holds back. It takes all the best bits of Greek Tragedy and creates a powerful and thought-provoking production that is just as current today as it was when it was first performed in 458BCE.
Runs at the Almeida Theatre till 18th July 2015.
No latecomers will be admitted and interval timings are strictly adhered to.
Photo: Manuel Harlan