The Scoop’s sunken amphitheatre is a natural fit for Phil Willmott’s ambitious adaptation of Aeschylus’s ‘Oresteia’ trilogy, the latest in Steam Industry Theatre’s annual series of free outdoor shows.
The sequence kicks off with the child-friendly ‘The Trojan Horse’, which makes a song and dance of the siege of Troy and is a refresher if you’re rusty on the mythology. Beneath the teen-speak is a fun, old-fashioned musical romp with hit-and-miss Carry On-style innuendo.
The tone darkens with the sky. ‘Agamemnon’ shows the murder of the titular Greek king by his wife Clytemnestra after the Trojan War, while ‘Orestes’ follows the fate of Agamemnon’s avenging son. The script clunks in places, but it’s powered by an energetic cast, who inhabit troubled versions of their characters from the first play.
There’s little sense of post war glory in Willmott’s take on Aeschylus. The chorus is a wheelchair-bound veteran, soldiers are traumatised and families are devastated. Clytemnestra (a sympathetic Natalia Campbell) destroys Agamemnon’s stage-managed triumphalism, raging against a society that leaves its women to pick up the pieces.
‘Orestes’ begins knee-deep in blood and ends in democracy, with Willmott casting us as the citizens responsible for deciding the matricidal son’s fate. It’s gimmicky but pleasing – the gods no longer in the picture, overshadowed instead by the GLA.
First published by Time Out