Monday, April 13, 2015


Last week we went to Belvoir for their Elektra / Orestes.

I am interested in the story and for whatever reasons the Strauss opera is near the top, if not topping, my most seen operas list (excluding Ring Cycles). The tickets were offered as a promo discount via Sydney Theatre Company - hmmm, not selling I thought.  I'd read some critics which while generally sounding a bit underwhelmed had tweaked my interest in what was a jointly written (Jada Alberts and Anne-Luoise Sarks, also the director) update in a contemporary setting in the midst of our current national debate about domestic violence. So, with the show just over an hour long, Linda Cropper as Klytemnestra, and liking the Belvoir vibe, off we went.

By the way, amongst Linda Cropper's long career list is Melba (Yvonne Kenny providing vocals).

With expectations on hold, and only one glass of wine, I went in for interest's sake and came out a mess.

Ralph Myers set was a stark cold white wall with Elektra in red neon in a top corner and a door into what was glimpsed as a kitchen. One table in front; chairs. The writing I liked. Punchy, angry, colloquial.

Katherine Tonkin's Elektra was nicely dishevelled but not completely deranged. She played, as written, unloved. Unloved. Cropper's Mother was cold, detached and unloving. She rationalised her husband's murder, to herself at least. Ursula Mills had a difficult task with Khrysothemis I thought. Her dialogue seemed awkward, though she was playing a double game as we were about to find out. Moreover, she was in a ridiculously silly costume dress which I just couldn't get past. Aegisthus, Ben Winspear, also struggled with costume (dressing gown, eye mask and slippers) looking like he'd walked in from some sitcom comedy.

They persisted in using their formal Greek Names, which worked as an introduction to character but I kept wishing they would let them slip into the vernacular, with Elektra becoming (say) Elle, and Chrissy, etc. Anyway.

Anyway, Orestes arrives, and things change quickly. Hunter Page-Lockhard has enormous presence. Strong and upright he is. And young. His character is a young man still a boy. He's scared, scared of himself I think. And unloved. His confrontation with his mother, studded with repeated declamations of "I come in the name of my father" was about his abandonment. I was tearing up, a lot.

Action was both out front, and unseen in the kitchen behind the wall. At midpoint, the set revolves. We are in the kitchen and see the first half, replayed, from the other side. From Orestes side. Spoiler alert: that Aegisthus and Chrissy were in the midst of a sleazy relationship was interesting but way beyond the scope of this short piece. A minor blip for me and I suppose while it did add to the general dysfunction I felt it really detracted from the main drama.

The great confrontation was between mother and son. It was pitifully sad. I cried, quietly, even K didn't know and I think I was the only one. This revolved less around revenge, and more about being unloved. Unloved. Spoiler alert: as he cradled the head of the mother he's just murdered, weeping, his cuddly toy his only support, I was as moved as I can remember being for a long time. An hour felt like a week.

Throughout all this, Linda Cropper gave an absolutely brilliant performance up to and especially in death.

(pics from Belvoir website)


David said...

Sounds and looks interesting. We're getting three instalments of Greek tragedy at the Almeida in the coming months. I hope they'll be more challenging than the Old Vic's Electra. Kristin Scott Thomas had the range, but you could tell she was Giving a Performance. Every Electra ought to seem as if she can only give you those extremes for One Night Only. I don't know how you manage that, but it has to be so, as in the opera.

wanderer said...

David - I found it quite challenging in that I was so moved and unsure (still) as to why.

Chrysthomis wasn't a goody-two-shoes, but having it off with her step-father, and the revengers were lost to this world in a loveless void from which they could only strike out in desperation (rather than pure revenge, as I read it).

I just checked the Almeida (of which I'm blissfully ignorant) and they, all three, look terrific, though our paths may well cross before you and theirs, happily.

Endgame with Hugo Weaving next week here.