THE female chorus dressed as cleaning ladies was a puzzle. The gods wearing jodhpurs was another talking point. And we wondered why a dress on a hanger floated down to the stage, to be then donned by a man? But then Blanche McIntyre, director of this Greek drama, The Oresteia, was clearly aiming at innovation with an ensemble of actors playing multiple roles that crossed generations and gender.
The production was at HOME, Manchester’s new cultural centre and the Friends enjoyed the buzz to this lively modern building packed with young people, many of them A Level students . But there was disappointment that a promised pre-talk by the director turned out to be an academic lecture aimed at said students. Woosh! Over my head and I don’t think I was alone! Anyway, into the new-smelling modern functional theatre we went (with a nostalgic pang for the gorgeous old Library Theatre), for this stripped back version of a bloody tale of murder and revenge, matricide and revolt, a remarkable masterpiece written over two thousand years ago..
And it wasn’t hard to follow, the action all about civic power, primeval forces, terrible justice – you could only be thankful the gory stuff was kept off-stage! Strange, though they hid the blood, we were shown – with the house lights up – the mechanics of the minimal staging. Oddities to ponder, along with such irritations as the male chorus, local blokes enthusiastically shouting! With Manchester people recruited to be the voice of the citizens, the production had a strong community element.But hey, the translation by Ted Hughes gave power to the languageand individual performances were good, so there was much to enjoy. And there was much debate on the homeward journey, always the sign of a successful trip.