Sunday, 1 May 2016

This Restless House

Citizens Theatre, Glasgow
Four stars

Ghosts are everywhere in Zinnie Harris' reimagining of the Oresteia, Aeschylus' ancient Greek soap opera trilogy. They are present in the first play, Agamemnon's Return, in the little girl lost that is Iphigenia, through Electra's daddy's girl in the second, The Bough Breaks, to the Singing Detective style raising of the dead in the final piece, Electra and Her Shadow. Dominic Hill's co-production between the Citizens Theatre and the National Theatre of Scotland is possessed with an expansive wildness that matches the dark flights of fancy that drives Harris' writing. Seen in one marathon sitting, the trilogy evokes an internal fury prompted by domestic unrest in extremis, before demons are eventually purged.

Things open in a palace that resembles a community hall or a 1970s social club, where a comic trio who seem to have stepped out of Last of the Summer Wine hold court. Here, Pauline Knowles' Clytemnestra swans in like a tortured torch singer, a clubland diva drinking and singing away her sorrows, haunted by the spectre of her dead daughter Iphigenia and unwilling to glam up for anyone except herself. Reunited with her errant husband, there's a brooding intensity to the intimate exchanges between Knowles and an equally magnificent George Anton as Agamemnon. Itxtaso Moreno's Cassandra, meanwhile, attempts to reassert her dignity after being tossed aside like an exotic souvenir past its sell by date, only to fall prey to Clytemnestra's wrath.

The discordant scrapes and rumbles of Nikola Kodjabashia's live score echoes the stabbing pains of Clytemnestra's mental anguish that eventually explodes into a bloody revenge that bears fruit in the second play, where Olivia Morgan's teenage Electra embarks on an even more relentless psychodrama. It is the final play, however, where everything comes home to roost, as an incarcerated Electra sits at the centre of a morass of modern day regression therapy that raises up spirits in conjunction with her similarly haunted psychiatrist. The brutal mess of flesh and blood anguish conjured up by Harris, Hill and their unhinged ten-strong ensemble is both blessing and curse in this most fearless of reinventions.

The Herald, May 2nd 2016

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