Monday, 14 January 2013

House of Atreus - review

Written by: Rachel Hopping (@roadtorach)

Where did Hop pop?
Waterloo East Theatre, London
Was it top for Hop? 

Step away from the commuter bustle of Waterloo and you’ll find something stirring deep within London’s busy streets. Waterloo East Theatre is a beautiful, welcoming and friendly venue, nestled under the arches of Brad Street. Complete with spiralling stairs, wooden benches, accommodating staff and an eclectic array of pop blasting through the speakers, it’s the kind of place any new company can find a cosy temporary home. Coupled with the scent of London damp, and the chilly January night air, the whitewashed stone walls do well to set the scene for a production which is, in places, haunting and dynamic.

Upcoming London company Théâtre Libre set out to create a highly physicalised adaption of the second play of Aeschylus’ Oresteia: The Libation BearersThis adaption focuses on the reunion of Electra and Orestes and follows the emotional anxieties he faces on his journey to murder Clytemnestra, his mother, and her new lover Ageisthus, to avenge his father, Agamemnon. Credit must first be given to the diverse actors of the play whose dedication and intensity are highlights of the production. Cheska Moon’s Clytemnestra oozes regality and brutality to create a devastating portrayal, while Lucia Young’s Electra is innocent and frightened, with unwavering devotion to her brother Orestes, played powerfully by Orestes Sophekleous.

Unfortunately, House of Atreus is less successful in the deliverance of its promises. The use of masks serves to frustrate and hinder performance, seeming inconsistent and irrelevant – with no reference, they appear to serve only to distort the admirably strong chorus and distinguish them from the mortal characters of the play. Advertised as ‘highly physical’ the production actually appears quite static - more reminiscent of traditional Greek Tragedy rather than a physicalised, innovative new adaption. To the production’s credit, the second half is a brutal, tension filled experience, exploring mother/child dynamics with emotion, urgency and anxiety which jars entirely with the stillness and forced emotions of the first act. Desire and Freudian elements were heavily played upon, creating a kind of rawness, which ultimately worked in the productions favour to create a thoughtful innovative piece of theatre, entirely supported by the confidence and youthful exuberance of the cast.

Considering the challenges Greek Theatre creates, the piece manages to capture the imagination, and the story is easy to follow. Language is simple and even beautiful in places, yet the aesthetic elements ultimately let the production down and do little to support its emotional dramatic effect – and it is these that are memorable. Despite this, it’s a new and energetic approach to myth by a dynamic new company, which should be praised for its expressive intensity.

This production runs until 27 January 2013. 
@WaterlooEast @theatrelibreaux 

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