Date: 28 october 2015
It’s pretty apt that the newest theatre in Manchester brings one of the first great works of theatre, Aeschylus’ The Oresteia to its stage. The Oresteia, a Greek tragedy, is a trilogy which first saw the light of day back in 458 BC when it was performed in Athens at the Festival of the god Dionysus. This festival involved pitting poet against poet – a much grander version of the poetry slam competitions that we have today – needless to say Aeschylus’ The Oresteia was triumphant, taking home first-place.
Director Blanche McIntyre uses a gripping and fast paced translation written by Ted Hughes. It’s well condensed which sees the epic trilogy clipped down into a single play of highlights running at around 1 hour 45 minutes.
Hughes’ language is bold and concise and McIntyre’s direction gives a powerful hit of sharpened stage imagery. Laura Hopkins’ design is stark, the action taking place on a stage loaded with dark gravel – it’s as if the dust has fallen on humanity. When Lyndsey Marshal’s powerful but softly spoken, Clytemnestra insists her husband Agamemnon to join her, four of her servants serve to scrape the dirt away with their fingers to reveal a pathway of crimson.
A fringe curtain of metal chains shimmers and clinks behind each character as they exit through it to kill or be killed. It’s ominous and volcanic, there’s a sense of impending doom – that an eruption could occur at any minute.
What is perhaps so special about this production is the chorus which is made up of fifty six Greater Manchester residents. The two choruses, separated into male and female, seek to bridge the gap between the bloody private lives we see on stage and their public implications. Interestingly, possibly one of the most striking images throughout the whole of the production is that of the furies, played by the members of the community chorus – with their jerky movements they contort their limbs about the stage, long dark hair covering their faces.
The Oresteia is running at HOME until 14 November 2015. Click here for tickets.