Gate Theatre Spring 2011
Carrie Cracknell's new
production of one of the most unrelentingly black of all Greek tragedies
captures all the horror of Sophocles' harrowing study in burning and
Ten years after the murder of
Agamemnon, others have made their peace with the reality and only his
daughter remains haunted by grief and anger. Unable to exact any revenge
beyond constantly reminding her mother of the crime, she dreams of the
return of her brother Orestes.
Orestes is on his way, though
Electra doesn't know that, and the bulk of the play is devoted to
exploring the depth of her hatred and what it is costing her.
Director Cracknell draws us
wholly into this very personal drama. The play is performed in
transverse, with a single row of audience members on each side, so we
are literally an arm's length from the actors, and Cracknell has altered
Nick Payne's new translation to internalise the play even further.
In place of the commenting
Chorus, she brings onstage the spirit of Electra as she was at the time
of the murder, so that the child actress and the adult Electra share the
singing, chanting and speaking of the Chorus's lines, turning external
commentary into internal thought and emotion.
Cracknell also cuts some of Payne's more poetic passages, most notably the Chorus's speech that accompanies the darkest moment in the play, when the despairing Electra digs her own grave, leaving us nothing to hear but the grunts and breathing of the hard-working actress bringing the character's desperation fully alive.
adaptation is serviceable, only occasionally grating on the ear with
anachronistic infelicities like 'O K' and 'You're on your own'.)
Cath Whitefield gives a fully
committed and courageous performance as Electra, allowing herself to
look obsessive, mad and even ugly in her depiction of the character's
Madeleine Potter creates a
strong antagonist as Clytemnestra, taking full advantage of Sophocles'
reminder that the queen had what she considered fully adequate
justification for her crime.
Alex Price's boyish Orestes
and Natasha Broomfield's feeling but reasonable Chrysothemis provide
contrasts by which to measure Electra's near-madness, and Martin Turner
is solid as Orestes' mentor.
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Electra - Gate Theatre 2011