There’s a distinct lack of (fake) blood in a show like Full Circle, bringing together antagonists from Greek mythology into one space, itself a tad mysterious. There’s a chair on which the ‘Queen of Monsters’, whoever that happens to be, sits, but no crown to be worn, and nothing particularly glamorous about the setting. If ‘hell is other people’, it would be difficult to do worse than having to spend the afterlife with characters such as these. According to the show’s programme, there are two murderers, Medea (Lucy Avison) and Clytemnestra (Madelaine Cunningham), a third woman, Phaedra (Niamh Branigan) who “cried rape, hung herself” and a fourth, Helen (Laura McKee), who is believed to have precipitated the Trojan Wars.
I hadn’t considered Greek myths like these since I was forced to study them at school, and found the play a tad difficult to follow in places, having not refreshed my memory before coming to the show. Initially I thought the characters could have done more than just wear plain dresses, to distinguish themselves from each other rather better. But the symbolism becomes gradually clear – they’re not that different from one another. Or are they? There’s always been some ambiguity as to whether Helen of Troy was fundamentally wicked, for instance, or rather a victim of circumstances. This Helen is borderline bullied for the differing opinions out there. The other characters also make arguments in favour of external factors influencing events with which they themselves have been associated.
I sat there wondering what relevance this bold production has to the world we live in today. In retrospect, I make three observations. Firstly, there are rather creative defences that some people use to justify largely indefensible actions. I would give examples from the play but that would be giving too much away. Secondly, in the final moments of the play, the conniving ways of certain characters come to the fore, and there can never be enough reminders in this world not to be too trusting of others. Thirdly, the pronouncements these ladies make on one another demonstrate well how someone is rarely, if ever, the most perceptive judge of one’s own character.
The dances and movements between scenes were lovely to see, and well choreographed, though it was sometimes difficult to ascertain what the dances were supposed to represent. The play itself has the same problem at one point. “Why are you on the floor?” asks one character. The other responds, “Change of scenery.” It also ends too abruptly for my liking, and comes across as a whistle-stop tour of these women that could have been twice as long and still perhaps not have plumbed the depths of these characters to the fullest extent.
One or two people around me felt it necessary to repeatedly look at the programme as the performance went on. Contained therein are brief details of each character. Much of the dialogue has a courtroom-like atmosphere, albeit without courtroom formalities (or, indeed, formalities of any kind), and the arguments and counter-arguments make for a dense and challenging production. Such is the beauty of fringe theatre, in this case deviating from the mainstream revivals of Greek tragedy and considering these ancient stories from a wholly fresh perspective.
Review by Chris Omaweng
Four of the most notorious women in Greek mythology – Phaedra, Helen, Medea, and Clytemnestra – have been removed from the blood-stained pages of their tragedies and brought together for the first time. They fight for their salvation in a detentionesque purgatory, cutting to the core of gender politics, asking what it means to be a mother, a sister, a wife, a woman.
by Black Sheep Productions
Tuesday 9th to Thursday 11th of May
Monday 22nd to Wednesday 24th of May
Sunday 21st of May, 9:30pm