Presented by SAYarts
Reviewed 6 June 2018
SAYarts under the directorship of Connor Reidy and the mentorship of playwright Sean Riley bring to the stage a contemporary retelling of the Oresteia.
Set in Australian suburbia, This Bloody House thrusts modern underworld characters into the themes of the original tragedy. The desire for more even in toxic situations, the willingness to bargain with higher powers and the desperation to survive through judgement all mingle within the characters as they seek to manage, escape or thrive in their predicaments.
The play opens with Agamemnon (Max Kowalick) making a deal with Zeus (Harry Ollerenshaw) who in return for the gift of strength and power demands the sacrifice of his youngest daughter Iphigenia (Lucy Tinsley). From the initial bloodshed passions take over through family conflicts from Agamemnon’s wife Clytemnestra (Lucy Ormsby), her lover Aegisthus (Arjuna Ganesan), and her children Orestes (Sebastian Reyes-Hewitt) and Electra (Penelope Skordos).
Amongst the confusion and traumatic scenes are the enjoyable and nicely constructed characters of Clytemnestra’s gently unhinged mother Leda (Jasmin McWatters) and the menacing Furies (Lilly Wilkins, Connor Pullinger and Jack Chaplin). Through simple steps these characters create a threatening and luring presence from the Furies while in a charming manner implementing Leda to deliver the subtle aspects of tragedy.
There are many strong performances from within the cast that are able to cut through with the severity and deception of the characters’ actions. They generally balanced well between the older play language structures and the casual, contemporary conversational elements. Some minor timing, pronunciation and projection issues did pop in during the play but these are tiny distractions that didn’t draw away from the intense moments that appeared.
Aspects of the original tragedy style come through strongly in the dialogue to create a narrative like tone that is then swiftly interjected with Australianisms that deliver a neat contrast between older and modern languages and humour. This works well to soften the edges of the dark humour and to highlight how the traditional brutality of the Oresteia can be successfully retold for a new setting.
The setup of the stage with plastic lining the walls and a sterile feel to it works well to underline the murderous and bloody nature of the production. This design is particularly effective in its work with the fluorescent and glittery costumes (by Kim Liotta) that, despite their brightness, provide a decent threatening and lingering effect when combined with the lighting (by Alex Hatchard), sound (Drums by Simon Possingham), and white plastic of the stage edges. The simple use of one bowl of blood to represent the diverse murder weapons carefully ties together the plot and dramatic results of the characters’ actions. These small but impactful aspects of the play add to the quality and effectiveness of the show.
Overall this is a high quality youth production with some stand out performances from an emerging cast. This Bloody House’s current show runs at the Bakehouse Theatre until Saturday.
Reviewed by Alex Dunkin
Photo Credit: Connor Reidy
Venue: Bakehouse Theatre
Season: 6-9 June 2018
Duration: 60 mins