Monday, 5 July 2010

Review: Elektra, Young Vic

Because I was only able to get a free ticket for the penultimate show, and because there was no press night, this post should be thought of as a reflection, rather than a review.

Way back in May, you may remember that Views From The Cheap Seats posted an offer for free tickets to a production of Elektra at the Young Vic. The reason for this generosity according to the Young Vic website was that "with no press night and no previews, Elektra will be an experience that we can't put a price on". I still haven't been able to find or figure out quite how the Young Vic were able to undertake such a project with no public income, and before going, was worried that it was going to be displayed as 'a work in progress'. But there was nothing half-finished about this production.

Instead, this was a tightly directed piece, where dim lighting and discordant sounds worked to create a hauntingly oppressive backdrop against which some highly polished performances stood out.

Onstage from the outset and throughout the entire evening, Lydia Leonard as Elektra lies curled up outside the door to her family home. She is haunted by the murder of her father Agamemnon, and like a female precursor to Hamlet, wants justice by planning revenge on the perpetrators: her mother Clymenestra and her new stepfather, Aegisthus. Leonard brings an intensity to Elektra, a steely certainty at the heart of her rage that I haven't seen before. Her grief is perversely compelling, at one moment shoulder-slumped with hollow eyes, the next all fire and mercury. Carson's translation manages to retain the weight and rhythm of the original while also seemingly suitably modern, and Leonard exploits this tension to great effect.

But there is strong support from the rest of the cast as well, not a single weak link to be seen. This is a play that is preoccupied with the impact of tragic violence upon women - mothers, daughters, sisters. Amanda Hale as Chrysothemis, Elektra's sister who suffers in silence, is perfect in her nerviness; one of the most touching moments was her discovery of her brother's supposed death, where she attempts to keep smiling though her tears.

And Nadia Cameron Blakely is sublime as Clymenestra, bringing a regal elegance and haugtiness to the part (although this is perhaps also the effect of her startling resemblance to Cate Blanchett?). Indeed it is Cameron Blakely who draws out the ambivalence that lies at the heart of this play's moral. While Elektra's righteous indignation seems to be entirely justified, Cameron Blakely's Clymenestra confuses the simple binaries of right and wrong, humanising the problem of revenge yet ultimately offering no solutions to this cycle of violence.

Free, as mentioned above.

A free cast list was available.

Total Cost:
Free! Which is a first for Views From The Cheap Seats, all the more encouraging for it actually having been a great night.

Elektra has now finished, but for more information, visit the Young Vic's website.

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