Tag Archives: Dean Elliott

Iphigenia In Aulis

★★★

Cockpit Theatre

Iphigenia In Aulis

Iphigenia In Aulis

Cockpit Theatre

Reviewed – 13th November 2019

★★★

 

“a timely revival of Euripides’ classic play, and modern audiences will find much to think about in this drama”

 

Iphigenia in Aulis is not really about the doomed eldest daughter of Agamemnon and Clytemnestra—it is about the jockeying for fame and power of the men who surround her. It is Euripides’ complex, ironic look at how families break down when men are willing to sacrifice the people they love most to win the spoils of war. This production in a translation by Philip Vellacott, and presented by Performance Anxiety and the Voila! Festival at the Cockpit Theatre, is a brave effort for such a challenging and morally problematic drama.

The plot hinges on the dilemmas facing Agamemnon, the leader of the Greek Army, as he faces off against rivals, including his brother Menelaus, to maintain his grip on power. Marooned in Aulis, and needing favourable winds to proceed to Troy, the priest Calchas tells Agamemnon that he has offended the goddess Artemis, and that he must sacrifice his eldest daughter (and favourite child) Iphigenia, to win her forgiveness. Agamemnon, having sent a message to his wife and child to summon them to Aulis on the pretext of a marriage to Achilles—is now having second thoughts. He hastily sends a second message to Clytemnestra, telling her to ignore his first message, and naturally, as in all good tragedies, the message never reaches the intended recipient. Now he has to face his daughter, his wife, and Achilles, who decides that his honour has been attacked, and that he must protect his “bride”. The weak and vacillating Agamemnon eventually decides that he can’t afford to back down. The results are predictable.

This production, co-directed by Lee Anderson and Dean Elliott, is a stripped down, modern dress version of this classic. The direction is competent, though misses opportunities to create intimacy and so raise the stakes between the characters in the large space on stage at the Cockpit. Agamemnon, (a rather muted performance by Dean Elliott) blows this way and that as the pressure to make a decision increases. But the scenes between him and his brother Menelaus, (an empathetic portrayal by Christopher Adams that adds depth to a character mainly known for losing his wife to Paris) are nicely judged with moments of humour. Hannah Wilder, who plays Iphigenia, wisely chooses to focus on the more relatable parts of her character—seeing the breakdown of her parents’ marriage with shock and horror, and trying to play the good daughter while protecting her baby brother Orestes from the family fallout. It is left to Clytemnestra (a commanding performance in a difficult role by Emma Wilkinson Wright) to try and guilt Agamemnon into changing his mind and sparing their daughter. Clever enough to realize that guilt alone is unlikely to change Agamemnon’s mind, she has prepared her ground carefully by telling Iphigenia of her father’s real plans for her, and ensuring that Achilles will add his arguments to hers. Joey Ellis, who plays Achilles, comes closest to creating a fully rounded character in this demanding play. He manages the transition well between self absorbed warrior thinking only of his honour, and a man sensitive enough to realize the value of his bride. His performance adds just the right amount of ironic regret as the adults around him and Iphigenia battle for position. Ultimately though, as in most Greek tragedies, it is the women who have to deal with the fallout from their men’s military ambitions. Euripides does not spare his audience the depth of Clytemnestra’s grief on the loss of her daughter, no matter what spin the Chorus puts on Iphigenia’s disappearance at the altar of Artemis.

Despite some weaknesses in direction and dramaturgy, this production is a timely revival of Euripides’ classic play, and modern audiences will find much to think about in this drama of leaders who are willing to do the unthinkable—and who conveniently forget the human costs for those who are powerless against them.

 

Reviewed by Dominica Plummer

 


Iphigenia In Aulis

Cockpit Theatre until 14th November as part of Voila! Europe 2019

 

Previously reviewed at this venue:
Cheating Death | ★★ | February 2019
Bed Peace: The Battle Of Yohn & Joko | ★★★ | April 2019
Lysistrata | ★★ | June 2019
Much Ado About Not(h)Ing | ★★★ | June 2019
Alpha Who? | ★★★ | August 2019
Bombshells | ★★★½ | August 2019
The Ideal Woman | ★★ | August 2019
The Werewolf Of Washington Heights | ★★★★ | August 2019
Moth Hunting | ★★★★ | September 2019
The Last Act Of Harry Houdini | ★★★★ | October 2019

 

Click here to see our most recent reviews

 

The Simon & Garfunkel Story
★★★

Lyric Theatre

The Simon & Garfunkel Story

The Simon & Garfunkel Story

Lyric Theatre

Reviewed – 29th April 2019

★★★

 

“the musicianship is excellent, and it’s quite a phenomenal showcase of ability”

 

It’s been fifty years since Simon and Garfunkel were hitting the charts, but it seems their popularity has yet to wane, as can be seen with the ongoing demand for ‘The Simon and Garfunkel Story’. Even after a sizeable run in London last year and a world tour following that, still, two months in to another season in London, a giddy full-house eagerly awaits.

New stars of the show, Adam Dickinson (Paul Simon) and Kingsley Judd (Art Garfunkel) open with a perfect rendition of ‘The Sound of Silence’. They share a fair likeness with their characters, and their silvery vocals harmonise beautifully so that if you closed your eyes you might just be fooled.

However, as soon as the first track finishes, we’re greeted with two very English accents, and a story told in the third person. It makes you wonder why they bothered with the costumes if suspension of disbelief was only going to come to a screeching halt five minutes in.

It’s a strange combination of production choices – Dickinson and Judd do at least sing with American accents, and both have appeared to study the mannerisms of their characters’ musical performances but as soon as each song is finished, they’re back to being two English lads. There’s no set besides a projector screen, and the ‘story’ is mostly made up of geographical locations of both singers and the chronology of the music, told in cheesy gobbets between numbers.

The costumes change according to the era (Everly Brothers-style shirts and black ties are swapped for seventies polo necks, and then eighties blazers and t-shirts) but the effect is so minimal they may as well not have bothered – particularly as the rest of the band remain in their shirts and ties throughout.

That being said, the musicianship is excellent, and it’s quite a phenomenal showcase of ability. More than that, it’s a pleasure to see how much they’re enjoying the performance – the drummer (Mat Swales) sweetly mouths the words of nearly every song, and the bassist (Leon Camfield) emanates a contagious enthusiasm.

It’s clear that vocal ability and aesthetic were the reigning considerations in casting Kingsley Judd: his manner of addressing the audience is overly sentimental, as though talking to an audience of senile geriatrics, and his performance is uncomfortable to watch. Dickinson, making his professional debut, seems much more at home as a front man, though he does have the advantage of having a guitar to hide behind, where Judd is left desperately trying to work out what to do with his hands – there’s only so many times you can meaningfully grab the mic stand.

Of course it’s entertaining listening to brilliant musicians performing huge hits, but it’s not a theatre production. The set-up is that of a gig (minus a dancefloor), and there’s little to no acting required or story told.

 

Reviewed by Miriam Sallon

Photography by Hamish Gill

 


The Simon & Garfunkel Story

Lyric Theatre – Monday 20th May & Monday 24th June

 

Previously reviewed at this venue:
The Simon & Garfunkel Story | ★★★★ | July 2018
A Beautiful Noise | ★★★★★ | February 2019

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