Oresteia is a highly intense, immensely moving exploration of revenge, justice, and family. The tension is thick from the first second, aided by a menacingly ticking clock and piercing stares, and there are times when you are afraid to move or even breathe for fear of disturbing the suspenseful silence onstage. This is a brave new adaptation, keeping the classic relevant and relatable to a modern audience.
Director Robert Icke attempts to bring the story to a modern age through the use of technology, reprising some live video techniques from his production of 1984. This somewhat developed the ideas running through the show of how a single event can be seen through multiple lenses, while screens displaying digital clocks and court evidence successfully enhanced the overall atmosphere. However the overuse of live cameras seemed an almost desperate attempt to modernise the centuries old story, which felt fairly unnecessary in this otherwise superb and accessible production.
The real triumph of the show came from the extreme delicacy of each performer – the way in which each actor fed into and developed the complexity of their respective characters, resulting in some incredible performances. Lia Williams’ Clytemnestra is cleverly calm and composed when necessary, before her rage and grief inevitably cannot be contained further, exploding out in an extraordinary display of fury and passion. Angus Wright is a strong Agamemnon, evoking sympathy even when committing a horrendous act through powerful outbursts of raw emotion. A particularly touching performance was given by Luke Thompson, whose terrified and fragile Orestes helped to maintain the humanity throughout the brutal, bloody story.
A show spanning almost four hours in length may seem daunting, however Oresteia does not drag or have you longing for an end. This was perhaps aided by its short but frequent “breaks”, however this was without a doubt fundamentally due to the consistently engaging script and heightened tension. The set initially appears to be reasonably bare, but later reveals itself to be versatile and beautifully designed, complemented by masterful manipulation of lighting techniques.
This is an intelligent, incredibly well constructed production that delivers questions about morality and justice in a unique and fascinating way. Well deserving of its West End transfer, Oresteia continues to stun and inspire awe in its audiences each night, serving as a reminder of just how incredible theatre can be.
Review by Grace Hans
A never to be forgotten theatrical experience. A huge, moving, bloody saga, the original of all family dramas, Aeschylus’ greatest and final play asks whether justice can ever be done?
Part Godfather, part Breaking Bad, this new reimagined version of the epic Greek saga is the unmissable event of the year.
Oresteia is brought to you from the team behind the multi award winning and critically acclaimed 1984 and transfers direct from a sellout run at the Almeida, where it has beenuniversally hailed as an astonishing, bold and exhilarating theatrical feat. Directed by Robert Icke (Mr. Burns; 1984) and starring Lia Williams (Old Times; Earthquakes in London) as Klytemnestra.
Evenings: Monday to Saturday 7.00pm
Matinees: Thursday and Saturday 1.00pm
Monday 7th September 2015