Monday 13 August 2012

EIF 2012 - Waiting for Orestes, or, A Pale Imitation

Before setting out for this performance I was hopeful. The source material – the myth of Elektra - is dramatic stuff, and I had seen Asian theatre at last year's festival which was enthralling. Sadly this one makes for a dull 75 minutes.

According to the programme note Tadashi Suzuki, whose company this was, thinks that “all the world is a hospital” and had consequently set the drama in one. If he does this for all his shows, as said note seems to imply, I can't help thinking the novelty must have worn off some time ago. From my perspective this setting did nothing to illuminate the drama.

The best of this performance comes in the first ten minutes. The chorus appear in wheel chairs and execute a number of manouvers about the stage culminating in a very fast circuit round and round before crashing off stage left. This was visually quite striking, but it completely escaped me what relationship it was supposed to have to the story proper.

After that we get into the play itself which consists of the various actors and the chorus declaiming lines straight out to the audience. Unlike the stylised approaches of last years Asian Shakespeare this had the effect for me of removing all emotional punch from the narrative. It was not helped by the fact that the piece constantly recalled Strauss's Elektra which is so viscerally exciting. Every scene here up to Elektra's concluding dance struck me as a pale imitation.

The physical abilities and vocal range of the company are impressive. Possibly a greater familiarity with the tenets of the Suzuki method might make the experience more illuminating. But as a performance to which I came to cold I'm afraid this was another unmemorable evening of International Festival drama.

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