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Review of Cassandra at The Blue Elephant Theatre

Cassandra: Photo credit Caitlin MacNamara
Cassandra: Photo credit Caitlin MacNamara

As we walk into the theatre we see a solemn Cassandra alone on the stage. This seems fitting since Cassandra will be the only one to speak with us directly as the play unfolds. She is isolated throughout – different. Whilst the other characters around her will ensure that their dramas and concerns be heard, when she speaks, it is only us who listen.

Cassandra is a prophet. Therefore, men want to dominate her. Having prophesised the falling of Troy, Cassandra is brought back to Agamemnon’s palace, much to his wife Clytemnestra’s fury. Cassandra already knows her fate. She is to be used by Agamemnon whilst Clytemnestra plots her death. The god Apollo can make it all stop if she will just give herself up to him. But she won’t… she is a victim either way. 

This is an ambitious piece. The direction by Ollie Harrington is careful, pointed and stylistic. A red cloth is used repeatedly. Apollo uses it to seduce Cassandra, but as it entwines around her she is strangled by it. It later becomes fine cloth, a gift and symbol of wealth. It is laid out as a carpet to celebrate Agamemnon’s return. Clytemnestra then enters into combat with him, and as he lays on the floor squirming in slow motion, the cloth has been cleverly wrapped around him to represent his blood as he dies. It is the colour of passion and fire, but it’s repetitive use also acts as a warning of what’s to come, a reminder of the danger and bloodshed Cassandra has already foreseen.

Dance was incorporated throughout the piece and this device was particularly moving. These moments really added something and gave beauty and depth to the piece. Stylistic ideas like this can be difficult to pull off in a smaller venue, but they were well rehearsed, slick and impressive.

The synopsis mentioned the piece was reminiscent of #metoo and #timesup. I wish this had been pushed further. The cast was young, and it seemed a shame not to use that as an opportunity to really try and make this piece relevant to today’s society. With fringe theatre, I think it is important that it is accessible to the community and this seemed like it could have been a gateway to making Greek tragedy more modern and give it a new, exciting edge. A firmer decision perhaps could have been made. The costume was varied and I was unsure if we were mixing modern and old or not, with Cassandra in a Greek, toga-like dress and Agamemnon in skinny jeans.

We were told Helen of Troy was a ‘slut’ and Clytemnestra the ‘power hungry bitch’. These stereotypes and labels are reflective of how women can be perceived in modern day life and piqued my interest. I wanted them to dissect and challenge this. Cassandra complained as the men patronised her, continuously calling her by her pet name ‘Cassie’. When Clytemnestra actioned her hunger for power, she was shadowed by the male god Apollo. Is this because power is associated with men? To attain power do women need a higher male to get them there? These moments provoked me to question my own society. They made me think. And I wanted more of these moments. These were the points where I was truly engaged and they could have been developed upon and more frequent. I would have liked to watch this play through a modern lens.

Found in Translation Theatre Company are a skilled group with some real potential. I found Beth Asher’s depiction of ‘Clytemnestra’ particularly riveting and she really stuck with the character throughout. I found myself almost wanting Clytemnestra’s vengeance for her since Asher had communicated the motives and emotional journey so well.

I hope that the company might bring some of their own opinions and thoughts into their work in future and begin to push the boundaries of what their shows could mean and represent.

3 Star Review

Review by Freya Bardell

Based on Aeschylus’ Agamemnon, Cassandra takes us on a very personal journey through some of the struggles many women face in their lives; the choice between what’s expected of them and how they feel. Touching on the themes of #metoo and #timesup, Cassandra is a fiery reimagining of a classical text which gives a voiceless woman an audience.

Established in October 2016, Found in Translation’s mission is to take Classical stories and update them for today’s audiences. They produce work that promotes education in the arts and Classical subjects to those that don’t have easy access to them otherwise.

Director: Ollie Harrington
Writer/Producer: Rose Goodbody
Lighting & Sound: Lauren Flynn
Composer: Josh Gardner

Cast
Lyna Dubarry (Cassandra)
Paul Irwin (Agamemnon)
Beth Asher (Clytmnestra)
Hiral Varsani (Advisor)
Jade Clulee (Watcher)
Hayden Tyler (Apollo)

For Found In Translation:
Artist in residence: Séamus Cussen
Facilities manager/Photography: Caitlin MacNamara

Suitable for ages 16+
Show Type: Theatre
Date: Tuesday 12th – Saturday 16th June
Time: 8:00pm
blueelephanttheatre.co.uk/

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