I’m always here for a great adaptation or re-think of the ancient Greeks; the plays deal with such fundamental questions of family and legacy, and our relationship to a place, that it is impossible not to see the relevance to current times. Saga Collectif present the World Premiere of this new adaptation by Ho Ka Hei (Jeff Ho), which slims the myth down to 4 actors, including a chorus represented by one actor.
The update to the text is delightfully wry, with brilliant steps in and out of an ancient sounding heightened language, cut with a more modern contemporary heightened language of our own, as if sub-tweeting the text. Ho’s adaptation underscores the challenges of our relationship to and feelings of ownership of a place. We are invited (encouraged even!) to empathize with Iphigenia and Orestes in their re-unification, to the point where we forget that in order for them to succeed, those whose land they are on (and property they attempt to steal) will be victims, and the ritual neglected in favour of self interest. I could go on for quite awhile on the symbolic role of the pharmakos and the elimination (or displacement) of this scapegoat in contemporary thought…
I thought the script was brilliant and insightful, and best captured by Virgillia Griffith’s Iphigenia, who embodied the perfect blend of regal ancient Princess/Priestess and Instagram celebrity. The production was well served by the live sound design provided by Heidi Chan, creating a hyper-real world for the characters to inhabit. While I enjoyed each of the performances individually, I did feel as though there was a disjointedness from a style perspective; as if each character was representing their own style of performance. It is tough to say whether this was intentional, but for me, it didn’t quite feel overt enough to really work as an addition to the production (so much to say that if it is intended….REALLY underscore it — like in the moments where Orestes re-tells his instructions from Apollo).
That quibble aside, I found the production to be thought provoking and intelligent. We could do with far more of this kind of theatre around here.