Agamemnon by Aeschylus, in a new version by Simon Scardifield

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Drama on 3 on BBC Radio 3

BBC Radio 3, 12 January 2014
As I listened to Sacha Yevtushenko's production of Aeschylus' classic play, the idea of the morality-play kept coming into my mind.  Maybe it was the deliberate use of alliterative language; the interaction between gods and human beings; or the intelligent use of simple sound-effects to create mood.  This was very much an ensemble piece, with the actors placed at different distances from the microphone during individual scenes, not only to help us define their relationship to each other, but to create dramatic effects (such as the sense of doom blighting the mortal characters' lives, as they struggled to free themselves from divine influence.
Thematically speaking, this Agamemnon explored the theme of revenge, and how a society deals with it.  Yevtushenko and Scardifield suggested that no one could escape its malign influence; which had a profound effect over their understanding of right and wrong.  Clytemnestra (Lesley Sharp) changed significantly as the action unfolded, as did Agamemnon himself (Hugo Speer).
However perhaps they could not necessarily be blamed for their change in nature; after all, they had emerged from a bloody war, which had profoundly affected their view of life.  This notion reminded us of Agamemnon's contemporaneity; although set in ancient times, its themes have profound significance for all of us, especially in the light of recent conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Interestingly this production drew little vocal distinction between the Chorus (Arthur Hughes, Philip Jackson, Carolyn Pickles) and the rest of the cast.  Although the Chorus fulfilled their appointed role of commenting on the action, they spoke in the same measured, colloquial tones as the rest of the cast.  This strategy reinforced the morality-play feel: we felt we were in the presence of a group of ordinary people taking on roles and performing them as much for their own benefit as that of the listening public.
The first of three productions in the Oresteia trilogy - the other two will be penned by Rebecca Lenkiewicz and Ed Himes - this was a refreshing yet profoundly serious rethink of Aeschylus' text.