Adelaide Festival

Festival Review: Thyestes

Watch and marvel as these Australian talents bring ancient tragedy to life in Thyestes.

Presented by Adelaide Festival
Reviewed 2 March 2018

Thyestes explores classical tragedy through a new lens, interweaving an ancient story with the banality of modern-day life. While still honouring Seneca’s original Roman play, this adaptation focuses on characters rather than actions. Written collaboratively by the actors and director, Simon Stone, Thyestes is a special production and worthy of your time during this over-booked Festival season.

The unique stage is a stark white box that cuts the audience in two. When the black curtains rise, the audience see the stage and through to the crowd on the other side. This fishbowl effect fosters a feeling of voyeurism and puts the audience on edge immediately. The bright white stage has no decoration save for essential props, which are placed while the curtain is down. The curtains rise with each scene perfectly arranged, a new memory waiting to start. Set and costume designer Claude Marcos is to be commended for these seamless transitions.

Scene one opens as princes Atreus, expertly performed with chaotic bravado by Toby Schmitz, and Thyestes, whose quiet sorrow is captured by Thomas Henning, plan the murder of their half-brother and heir to the throne. The focus of this scene is not the murder itself, nor the repercussions of their actions, but the strained relationship between these brothers – something that is universally relatable, emphasised by the casts’ modern clothes, pop culture references, and easy Australian vernacular. Chris Ryan plays the affable and clueless half-brother Chrysippus, but skilfully adopts multiple roles both male and female as the play requires. His versatility in these diverse roles is admirable.

Familial love, lust, paranoia, and the timeless thirst for power are all explored during the poignant vignettes of Thyestes. Each new scene shows the relationship between Atreus and Thyestes deteriorate as the tragedy unfolds, moving towards its inevitable conclusion of the murderous feast. Whether they are playing brothers or lovers, the cast have amazing chemistry and bring their ancient characters to life.

Stone and the cast remove the monstrous masks in this tragedy, exploring real characters and remembering what is important. Thyestes will make you laugh and scream in turn, yet you can never look away.

Reviewed by Nicola Woolford

Venue: Space Theatre, Adelaide Festival Centre
Season: 3 March – 7 March 2018
Duration: 90 mins
Tickets: $40.0 0 – $79.00


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