The Oresteia at the Globe
A tale of murder, monarchy and revenge, Aeschylus’ ancient play The Oresteia is being staged in no less than three big theatres around London this summer. This production, playing at The Globe and directed by Adele Thomas, is adapted brilliantly by Rory Mullarkey from the original: he has managed to take three colossal plays and put them together into one performance with all the emotion intact. While the actors put on a good show, and its director has clearly succeeded in staging a great play, the script material they have to work with shines through as the real star.
The Oresteia is a trilogy of ancient Greek plays (here staged as three acts) which follow the tale of ill-fated King Agamemnon and his family. Clytemnestra, his headstrong Queen, seeks revenge for her sacrificed child and exacts it on her husband. Hearing what has happened, her son Orestes returns to the palace, from which he was sent away as a child, to take up his crown and avenge his father. With revenge sparking revenge, the tale goes darker and darker, delving into the depths of the underworld and awakening the anger of the “Furies” (vengeful goddesses) on its path to finding true justice.
There is no question that the play is entertaining: it has bags of emotion, thrilling twists and turns, and a script that manages to be funny, comprehensive and wise. Costuming is also impressive. At three hours long, it provides a full night’s worth of theatre, with opportunities to pick up a drink and discuss the action in either of its two intervals. The Globe certainly makes a nice home for this play, with the actors often taking the chance to weave through the crowd on approaching the stage, and using the audience as a third judge in the final act.
There are odd moments, none more striking than the occasional blood-covered actor triumphantly shouting a monologue over a pile of body parts. There is also a particularly large model of phallic proportions in the final parade, which forms a slightly perplexing celebration of manhood, perhaps meant for those more acquainted with Aeschylus’ work. Nevertheless, for the most part the play is entertaining, easy to follow and thrilling. There are laughs and gasps aplenty, with much to enjoy in this clever production.
Photos: Robert Day
The Oresteia is on at The Globe Theatre from 29th August until 16th October 2015, for further information or to book visit here.