Elektra Young Vic 02 July 

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Picture from Young Vic Facebook page

The question is always how to adopt the distancing and generalisation of Greek tragedy to the modern stage, which operates by precisely the opposite principles, and where Elektra’s sweatstained singlet and bloodied face are present all to present.

This interpretation, using a new translation by Anne Carson,  followed Milton:

No light; but rather darkness visible
Served only to discover sights of woe,
Regions of sorrow, doleful shades, where peace
And rest can never dwell, hope never comes
That comes to all, but torture without end

and the lighting by Guy Hoare certainly deserved credit for making the darkness visible (able to be seen through, in this context).

In pursuit of the same idea, the text left out rather a lot of the mythological and gnomic structure of  the original.  The Clytaemnestra of Nadia Cameron-Blakey impassively delivered her lines from an infinity of cold, while I enjoyed the nervous Chrysothemis of Amanda Hale in an Emily Dickinson dress.

Amanda Hale as Chrysothemis

But did Lydia Leonard as Elektra show the true Sophoclean adamantine intransigence, obdurate pride and steadfast hate, or was she merely put-upon?  Well, after receiving the false news of Orestes dying, she began to dig, and then a little of the magic appeared like the corner of a coffin.  But I think that the recognition scene between her and Orestes works better if they dispute for the ashes-containing urn as for his identity; here she took it away and cradled it in her arms.

I’m not sure that it really makes sense if the action already seems to be taking place among the chthonic deities; it is the actions of the characters above the earth while they can see the light that lead them there.  But this was a serious and highly competent attempt at tackling the problems of staging Greek drama, and I’ve no idea why the Young Vic felt they had to put it on for free.  It was co-credited to Headlong Theatre, and was without doubt a great deal better than the paid-for productions of theirs I’ve seen.

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