Monday, June 9, 2008

Iph ...

** Mercury, Colchester

Lyn Gardner. Monday June 9, 2008. The Guardian

Iph... a Euripides play reworked at Colchester
Off the boil... Iph... a Euripides play reworked. Photograph: Robert Day

If Sue Lefton's production of Colin Teevan's strikingly modern version of Iphigenia at Aulis was all as good as its final 15 minutes, it would be a marvel. As it is, it's like a kettle with a loose connection that has little surges of electricity but is mostly off the boil. It often left me stone cold.
First produced at the Lyric Belfast in 1999, where it was seen as a comment on 30 years of sectarian violence, Teevan's version of Euripides' last surviving drama has a play on words in its title that slices straight to the heart of the moral debate: what should happen if the good of the community rests on the sacrifice of a 14-year-old girl?

That is the dilemma facing Agamemnon, leader of the expedition to Troy to seize Helen, stolen from his brother Menelaus by Paris. But with the Greek soldiers fired up for a fight, the winds fail. The fleet is stalled at Aulis and only the sacrifice of Agamemnon's daughter, Iphigenia, to the goddess Artemis can save the day. Agamemnon must kill his child or face the wrath of troops who will turn on him and his family. Iphigenia's body becomes a moral minefield where the battle between the rights of the individual and the needs of society are played out, highlighting issues of self-interest and self-sacrifice.
Long neglected, Euripides' play is now back in fashion, with two major productions since the invasion of Iraq. There is nothing wrong with Teevan's version, which is sturdy and seasoned with its own cutthroat directness. Adrian Linford's design, with graffiti-covered walls, cleverly locates the drama in both past and present, and there is evocative lighting.
But the director gets in the way of the play, always signposting what should be implicit. First, she gives Teevan's latter-day chorus - a group of Essex girls on the razzle - lots of unnecessary choreographic embellishment; then she gets the actors playing Iphigenia and Clytemnestra to deliver their roles most oddly. Nadia Morgan's Iphigenia is a cross between Pollyanna and Lolita, while Shuna Snow's Clytemnestra is clearly a leading light in the Pony Club. These are not bad actors but good actors badly directed. That much is clear from the final moments, when both Morgan and Snow are magnificent, painfully demonstrating that even when willingly spilled, blood always begets more blood.

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