Dr. David Cowan
Aristeia Theatre, a young Dorset theatre company, made the brave step of bringing a modern interpretation of Euripides' ancient tragedy Electra to the Fringe. It tells the tale of Electra, played engagingly by Lizzie Morris, and her brother, Orestes, played by George Haviland, as they take their revenge on their mother Clytemnestra for murdering their father Agamemnon. It all comes to a tragic end, as once the revenge is satiated Electra and Orestes realize the mother they hated is also the mother they loved.
Electra came late in Euripides’ work, after the 410s BCE. Euripides wanted to portray the characters in the play realistically rather than in an idealised way, be they gods or humans. This production has sought to do the same, with the delightful chorus of four dressed in a simple black and white costume and faces made up most strikingly. Electra and the other characters wear contemporary everyday clothes. I would have liked a more stylised use of dress with the main characters like the Chorus, but I can see why a contrast was offered here. The use of a blackboard to keep score of the lineage was a nice touch. The poster artwork also deserves a mention, it is one of the most striking posters around Edinburgh this year.
I would love to see this production in a darker and more intimate setting than the venue in Edinburgh. That said it’s a welcome chance to see this classical play, and Aristeia Theatre offers an intriguing introduction to Euripides for anyone who hasn’t seen his work or much Greek theatre. The great glory of the Festival is there are so many nooks and crannies to discover classic and great works, often, as in this case, in short slithers which can be the best way to encounter such works for the first time.