A Winter’s Oresteia
7.30pm – 9.30pm
Tuesday 3rd – Friday 6
Tickets: £8 (Concessions £6)
From awardwinning playwright, James Beagon (First Class, Best New Writing 2014, Buxton Fringe) comes a chilling new adaptation of an ancient Greek classic: a family tragedy of honour and revenge. A Winter’s Oresteia is the modern day adaption of the an ancient tale, set as the Trojan war comes to a close. Clytemnestra awaits the return of her sister, Helen of Troy, as tensions simmer below the surface and a family gathering is planned to show a united front to the world. There is a tangible hatred between Clytemnestra and her daughters Elcktra and Chrysothemis, and the arrival of her son Orestes only adds to the uncomfortable dynamics. Clytemnestra blames her estranged husband, Agamemnon, for the death of their daughter, Iphigenia, who she later discovers wassacrificed to the old Gods to guarantee the safe passage of a ship in a storm. The ghost of Iphigenia then manipulates the minds of those who can sense her and stirs up a concoction of hatred and revenge. And this is only scratching the surface of this dramatic plot. A complex family drama to say the least, that builds into a tornado of fractious emotions and psychological deceit. The character of the ghost of Iphigenia, played by Sally Pitts , is central to the story and is hauntingly executed. She holds an ethereal spitefulness, elucidated with an otherworldly singing voice, and embodies the vengeful corpse with a captivating performance.
The first act sets the scene firmly in the modern day with a family gathering around the dinner table. There is grating tensions between the mother and her children which reverberates with the trivialities of the modern world. Mobile phones and petty squabbling around the dinner table give this the feel of a soap opera, all the while referencing the tales of the Trojan war. This is convincingly portrayed and is carried along with sharp contemporary dialogue. As the story builds however the story moves from drama to massacre and then to almost farce. The ghost of Iphigenia is accompanied by six Furies, wraith like beings from the underworld who sing etherial harmonies that at times feel like Gregorian chants, and at other times echo the season in the form of eerie christmas carols. Their voices create powerful and sublime chorus, however after their arrival in the story, their almost constant presence on stage, with relentless writhing and hissing becomes overbearing and makes the tiny stage feel cluttered with the huge cast.
As we embark on the second half the vengeance of Iphigenia begins and the brutal scenes of revenge commence. Although convincing and shocking in the first instance this high octane frenzied energy then continues for almost the entire second half. There is what seems like constant panicked breathing, weeping, screaming and frenzied hysteria. A knife edge moment that seems to last for an eternity of murders, pleading and emotional wringing. Saying that the cast of what seemed to be students held this play together brilliantly, and with almost two hours of constant dialogue, there was not one slip or falter in their performance. The script eloquently transported this ancient tale into the modern day and raced forward at a good pace that held the audience in the tangled web it so masterfully weaved. A great effort from a young cast full of talent and enthusiasm. Definitely some faces to watch out for in the future there. The venue of Summerhall is also such a wonderful place to watch such a spectacle, with the old lecture hall adding to the enchanting feel of this powerful piece of theatre.
Reviewer : Glenda Rome