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Oresteia

Cumbernauld Theatre
4 stars
Looking down on the bear pit that Cumbernauld Theatre’s stage sometimes resembles, hemmed in as it is by steep walls of seating on three sides, one feels at times during this new solo version of Aeschylus’ Oresteia like the celestial jury in Powell and Pressburger’s 1946 big-screen war-time fantasia, A Matter Of Life And Death. More pertinently perhaps, actor Sandy Grierson makes his last confession as Orestes striking the ceremonial pose of some Zenned up wrestler ready for combat. With legs splayed and arms held aloft in the centre of a floor blacked out save for the solitary spotlight he’s bathed in, shaven-headed, stripped to the waist and with his lower torso wrapped in orange robes, Orestes here looks for all the world like some Burmese monk called to answer for his rebellion against the state.

Clocks tick and pulses pound forebodingly in David W.W. Johnstone’s production, a collaboration between the Polish inspired Lazzi Experimental Arts Unit and Cumbernauld’s freshly instigated Nucleus series of works with more left-field theatre practitioners. Pared down to just under an hour, and with Grierson stood pretty much stock still for the duration, it’s a remarkable performance. Grierson internalises the demons Orestes is plagued by to the extent that by the end of the show he’s bathed in sweat and quaking with the effort of sustaining such a feat.

Arriving onstage only a week after The Tron’s equally battle-scarred take on Antigone, Lazzi’s version never pushes its allusions, remaining faithful to Robert Potter’s 1886 translation. This is no antiquity, though, but remains intense, demanding and quite possibly the most adventurous and unique piece of theatre ever seen in Cumbernauld.

The Herald, October 22nd 2007

ends

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