REVIEW - Orestes
Greek theatre in the digital age has been forced to adapt and overcome not only the challenge of the virtual format but the preconceived ideas that people have of it. Having no knowledge of the original text and no more understanding of Greek mythology and stories than most, I was able to experience this piece in both its performative and educational contexts.
A live Zoom stream to Youtube allowed for moments of imperfection which showed the live nature of the show. It avoided the film-like disconnect that has been seen in other virtual shows and that in the moment feel of theatre made it all the more engaging. Filming from peoples rooms is always a high hurdle to overcome but the use of blocking ensured the smooth flow of the piece. The use of select pre-edited segments allowed for diversity in both pacing and layout which on the whole kept the momentum building. The opening excellently built tension and made me hurry to settle in for the performance, eager to not miss anything. The final product was slick and well put together - a testament to operators Jean Vergnet and Marcus Bell and the video designer Cosette Pin.
The show itself consisted of multiple parts, each translated by a different writer which, while giving the show interesting twists and turns, often felt dissonant with one another and it would take some time to adjust to the change that had just been forced upon me. The 'Comedy Roast' section was great fun and helped me understand the characters in a much more accessible way. I was worried my lack of classical knowledge would hinder my understanding but great delivery gave context and some simple references were put in too, probably so people like me didn't feel left out. The exaggerated characters of Greek myth fit perfectly with the sitcom-like laugh track making me wish for some series to binge with these characters in.
The interval news-panel-style discussion between academics was a fun and engaging way to interweave a more external view on the plot and its implications. The references to other stories certainly made me want to seek out more adaptations and learn more about this hugely complex web of stories. This coincided with an audience vote on the fate of Orestes - a great opportunity to take advantage of with the virtual format. I am unsure if this actually had any impact other than an interesting graph showing the vote as the second act became much more thematic. The second half started off slowly and the return of clips of the model house on the shore excited me as I thought this would be an important plot device. It ended up in a surrealist movement piece, intercut with videos and images. At first it seemed random, rising in tension to the model house burning providing a vague comment on climate change. Gripping as it was, I couldn't help but feel as though I was missing some deeper message that was being implied given the shift in tone throughout the piece and the lack of reference to these themes elsewhere.
Lighting in this show as a whole was well thought out and very character driven. Finley Bettsworth did more with lighting in peoples rooms than I thought was possible. Both colour and shape accentuated characters emotions heightening Orestes' tension and amplifying the meddling of Apollo in a playful pink. Nathaniel Jones also further helped bring the characters to life without them even having to say a word with his characterised costumes. Made from an eclectic mix of items, it all came together into a visual style that was cohesive and brought the characters into a modern setting. A highlight of this show was the use of sound and music throughout, oftentimes building tension and pacing while underscoring the action on screen. Wyn Shaw was able to create an riveting atmosphere, from my admittedly awful laptop speakers, which is a great testament to their composition.
This new spin on the old tale of Orestes was an amazing step into making Greek theatre more accessible. Through the medium it used, the direction, acting, and design, all areas enabled even those unfamiliar with the complex web of Greek tales to take their first step. The directors' aim was to make a show for those at any stage of study where they may encounter Greek drama. I am sure that for every moment I enjoyed this audience would find ten more!
Written by - H. Dovell