Electra @ GUU, 3 & 5 December, Dir. Hirushi Wickramaratne & Claire Breen
This year’s Winter Play by the Alexandrian Society is Electra, and is loosely based on the classical play of the same name by Euripides. It follows Electra (Tatiana Sokolova) and Orestes (Matt Travers) who are reunited after four long years apart. They decide to murder their mother Clytemnestra (Hirushi Wickramaratne) and their step father, Aegisthus, as an act of revenge for Clytemnestra murdering their father, Agamemnon. The premise might sound confusing and a little murder-y, but don’t worry: you won’t leave the play thinking that it’s ‘all Greek to me’.
The play begins with a speech by Euripides himself who explains the background of the play to the audience, and the presence of the original playwright is a clear indication from the beginning that this is no usual Greek tragedy. His presence allows the play to be extremely self-aware, but the extent of this isn’t fully apparent until the end; instead, for the majority of the play, Euripides acts as a guide for the audience and helps to explain some of the niche jokes any non-classicists may have missed.
Despite the two murders which occur in the play, and the many more which happen before it, the once Greek tragedy is now a modern comedy. The jokes are bawdy and crude, such as the reference to Odysseus’ “Cretan kink” and the suggestion that the only time Agamemmnon made Clytemnestra orgasm was when she murdered him. The characters casually reference memes and other popular culture, and it creates a fusion of both classical and modern humour. The audience clearly enjoy the jokes, and I’m sure it is just as Aristophanes, a Greek comic playwright, would have wanted.
The cast is extremely strong, and special mention goes to Michael Twiddy as Orestes’ lover Plyades who, despite not saying a single word throughout the performance, leaves the audience in stitches every time he is on stage. Dominic Bogle as Castor and Calum Davidson as Pollux only appear briefly at the end in a moment of deus ex machina, but nevertheless are a memorable and hilarious duo. The inclusion of three explicitly gay characters is a wonderful and much welcomed adaptation of the play, especially as Orestes and Pylades’ relationship is portrayed in such a loving way.
Electra is a play for both classicists and those with no knowledge of the House of Atreus. At its core it is a comedy, with a storyline similar to something you would see on Hollyoaks. It is definitely ninety minutes well-spent, and I would recommend it to anyone in need of a good laugh in these dark winter nights.
[Eleanor Fletcher – she/her – @eleanorlf_]
The final performance of Electra will be on Thursday 5th December at 7pm in the GUU Debates Chamber. Tickets are £5 for students and £7 for non-students, and can be bought on the door.
Read our interview with the writers/directors Hirushi Wickramaratne and Claire Breen here. You can watch the trailer here