DramaNorth WestReview

The Oresteia – Lowry Theatre, Salford

Writer: Aeschylus Adapted by Kerry Frampton

Director: Kerry Frampton

Reviewer: Abbie Rippon

A story of blood-for-blood revenge crime as a family seeks vengeance on each other, The Oresteia is the story of the fall of the house of Atreus. An ancient Greek myth, originally staged two-and-a-half-thousand years ago by Aeschylus, Splendid Productions have turned this ancient story into a hard-hitting piece of epic theatre which begs the question – does anyone truly deserves death?

Three furies tell the story; goddesses of vengeance who are charged with pursuing and driving mad anyone who has taken the life of a family member. Nuala Maguire, Grace Goulding and Tanya Muchanyuka play these three, wrathful Erinyes; exploring how the women in this ancient story have never been given a voice. Despite being muzzled themselves by traditional crinolines, these three women make it their duty to allow the voices of the female characters to be heard.

Kerry Frampton’s modernisation of the story uses cold, emotionless police reports to highlight to the audience that murder is more than a dead body, it is a horrific and gruesome act. Does anyone deserve that? Is murder ever okay? Iphigenia allowed herself to be sacrificed and Clytemnestra was killed as an act of vengeance. Does that make either act acceptable? The audience are left to decide.

The performers are slick, in tune with each other and at times absolutely hilarious. Their seamless ability to break the fourth-wall is commendable. The audience, full, no doubt of A Level students, are given a masterclass in Epic Theatre. Maguire, Goulding and Muchanyuka are a well-polished chorus and exceptional character actors. Their beautiful use of animalistic idiosyncrasies as the furies is highly effective and their multi-role play clean, swift and physical.

What was particularly engaging and interesting about this production was how it all ties together as a social commentary on the rights and voices of women. Governors, parliamentarians and pockets of the general public are parodied to highlight their views towards women in power, despite being satirical, this demonstrates a chilling truth about how society continues to judge women.

There are many effective theatrical moments in this production: beautiful use of British sign language as a storytelling device, the way hanging cloths are used to trap and shroud Electra and Cassandra respectively, the use of song and music, and many mode ideas on a list too long to include.

This short, one act performance poses a heck of a lot of questions for the audience. It is a fine example of didactic theatre and will no doubt be well received as it tours theatre schools over the coming months.

Runs until Thursday 29thNovember 2018 | Image: Contributed

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One Comment

  1. “What was particularly engaging and interesting about this production was how it all ties together as a social commentary on the rights and voices of women”

    Because, of course, in the Aeschylus original there’s very little active female involvement. All I can remember is the goddess Artemis demanding the sacrifice…oh, and Iphigenia volunteering to be sacrificed…oh, and Clytemnestra hooking up with her husband’s mortal enemy to plot revenge.. oh and Electra demanding revenge on Clytemnestra and Aegisthus…oh, and Athena presiding over Orestes’s trial and delivering the verdict via her casting vote. There’s no shortage of female voices in the original. They might not be saying things that suit you or me – but they’re there! Robert Icke, in the Almeida ‘version’ seemed to be trying to avoid this by crude devices like failing to mention Artemis and pretending Electra was just a figment of Orestes’s imagination but was unconvincing. The main thing that worries me about this, though, is the modern setting. Icke’s version was ridiculous because the characters were presented as modern politicians but he didn’t change the underlying premise – that Agamemnon would have allowed a ritual sacrifice to secure favourable weather conditions. It looks like this one is no different.

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