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Posts Tagged ‘Internationaal Theatre Amsterdam’

I’m fond of a bit of Greek tragedy, though at 3h45m this is more than a bit. It’s Ivo van Hove’s third mash-up, though the first two were Shakespeare – The Romans, which I missed, and English kings, which I saw. This combines seven plays, six by Euripides and one by Aeschylus, that take us from the sacrifice of Iphegene by her father Agamemnon to Elektra & Orestes’ revenge on their mother and her new lover for the murder of Agamemnon, their father. The decline of the House of Atreus, with the Trojan War as its backdrop.

It has the aesthetics of a rock concert, well heavy metal to be more precise, with an onstage band and the customary Greek chorus as dancers. At other times, there’s a percussive soundscape, again played live, with the cast sometimes joining in on makeshift instruments like buckets, and the scaffolding that covers the sides of the stage. The screen at the back presents us with family trees before we start and images, song lyrics and narrative during. Given the programme’s synopsis and character profiles, and the fact it’s in Dutch (with surtitles) I was expecting to be confused, but the linear narrative was very clear. The second half has a different feel, perhaps because it was first performed as Elektra/Oreste, but also because its performed in mud.

It’s both very physical and very visceral. The characters throw themselves around the stage in what seems like constant anger and rage. Revenge follows revenge in graphic scenes of torture and death. You don’t go to Greek tragedy for a fun night out! The attempts at finding contemporary parallels are subtle and valid. We do seem to be living in a new age of rage, challenging authority, the establishment and democracy itself. I was gripped by its theatricality throughout. It rarely lagged and I left the theatre as if I’d devoured a very satisfying feast.

I’ve seen many Greek tragedies in many locations and languages, from an entire weekend in a disused carpet factory in Bradford, in French, to intimate spaces where you can feel the actor’s breath in the air between you, though sadly never in Greece, and this is amongst the best. It was also my eleventh van Hove production, and I came to the conclusion that he’s at his best on such an epic scale.

Only two more performances at the Barbican Theatre. Unmissable.

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