ORESTES
Duke Of Cambridge Theatre Club, London NW5
Opened 27 November, 1990

Euripides' treatment of Orestes' matricide and his attempts to escape from Argos is far from a clear-cut re-telling of the story. Poor O's already driven to distraction by invisible Furies; when he takes it into his head to murder his aunt, the newly-returned Helen (until recently of Troy), he seems to have departed his trolley completely. But with a scheming friend like Pylades and a sister whose adoration verges on the incestuous, he's not subject to many stabilising influences not to mention the clump of townswomen commenting on every move he makes.

Director Anne Mosley bravely has her chorus actually sing the bits written to be sung (accompanied here by vaguely Durutti Column-ish guitar riffs); they, and the trio of malefactors, are consistently commanding presences. But they are undermined by supporting performances which are erratic, to say the least. Gaslit's Theatre Company's policy of combining seasoned actors with comparative newcomers becomes irksome when it bears fruit, for example, in a messenger whose accent (when it stops roving long enough) makes Chico Marx sound like Kenneth Baker. Yet again, a number of fertile ideas have outstripped a limited range of resources, both material and human.

Written for City Limits magazine.

Copyright Ian Shuttleworth; all rights reserved.

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