DTR - Reviews of The Furies

The Furies

Sat 9th – Tue 12th November 2013

reviews

Lauren Finch

at 22:26 on 10th Nov 2013

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1disagrees

As we walked into the intimate yet intimidating Norman Chapel we were already drawn into the play, with the Furies writhing and groaning on the stone. This bleak arena for the show, with benches surrounding the floor, was perfect for director Leo Mylonadis’ rendition of “The Furies” by Aeschylus. The single violinist, Isaac Lusher, set the scene perfectly with eerie music to accompany the haunting, twitching presence of the performers, while the dim lights prevented the audience from getting a proper view of the demons’ contorted bodies.

This conclusion to the Oresteia trilogy started well with the lighting; held in the hands of the surrounding cast to illustrate with either white or red the character of the actors. However, the intimidating atmosphere soon became intrusive as the actors utilised the small space as they began the performance. Audience members were often knocked or nudged during the more striking scenes, which made it uncomfortable to watch. This tiny arena was, however, effective in that the actors could directly address the spectators; this increased the intensity and seemed to strike fear into some, in particular when the ghostly chorus began.

Yet whilst the music was effective in creating the hellish scene and the acoustics in the chapel were wonderful, the choreography seemed slightly awkward and out of character at times. These scenes showed off brilliantly the Furies’ prosthetics and costumes, but it was disappointing to see this artwork gradually fall off as the show went on. The acting of the Furies was also inconsistent, ranging from subtle and effective to slightly shouty and overdone – this was unfortunate as the power of the production was diminished in these weaker scenes.

Some of the other characters also seemed a little shaky in their presentation, weren't entirely convincing and were perhaps not cast in the right roles. However, Apollo’s atmospheric storytelling, played by Chris Yeates, during the tribunal (in which the audience formed part) stood out as the most distinguished acting in the play; he drew in the audience and won us over entirely. Athena, played by Sian Green, was also well cast and was convincing and surprisingly powerful as the Virgin Goddess of wisdom, justice and war.

Aside from these solo performances, the location and music, I was left disappointed by the show due to the general over acting and the lack of development. “The Furies” had a lot of potential, but with its occasional clumsiness was underwhelming and unfortunately failed to deliver Aeschylus’ classic successfully.

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Emily Tilley

at 00:40 on 11th Nov 2013

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How can a play first performed in c.458BC be relevant and entertaining to a modern audience? This question is not only strongly debated in Classical scholarship, but is also often tackled in the modern theatre (with varying success). Durham University Classical Theatre’s production of Aeschylus’ ‘The Furies’ rivals the best of the Classical plays I have seen performed, and went a long way towards changing my view of the role of ancient theatre in the modern day. It was at once both faithful to the original tragedy, and modern in its approach; a feat which I had thought nigh on impossible to achieve.

The production is one of the slickest I have seen in a very long time, with impressive performances from every cast member bound together by a sense of unity through the whole ensemble. There was a palpable energy from start to finish. The exaggerated physicality of the choreography combined with the haunting use of music and vocals created an atmosphere which was both intimidating and engaging, making the audience feel closely connected to the play.

It was in the use of space that the production truly excelled. At first I was unsure about the decision to perform in the round, particularly in the Castle’s Norman Chapel, with pillars obstructing the audience’s view from all sides. However, the architectural features of the performance space which I had initially considered problematic were instead used to create a set within the audience’s imagination, and the entire chapel was absorbed into the world of the play. At no point did I feel that any part of the audience was neglected in the actors’ delivery, as so often occurs with performances in the round, but, rather, we were surrounded and almost overwhelmed by visual and auditory stimuli. The use of lighting to direct the audience’s focus and to reflect changes in tone was clever and effective. The brilliant makeup and costumes also helped to make the production visually powerful, marking a clear distinction between flawed humanity, the perfection of the Olympian Gods, and the horror of the Demonic Goddesses.

The play opened with a powerful and engaging performance by the High Priestess (Heather Cave) which instantly set the high standard for the rest of the production. The emotional instability of Clytaemnestra’s Ghost (Steph Taylor) was effectively portrayed, and her hovering presence on the periphery of significant scenes was an unnerving reminder of the violence and betrayal underlying the plot. Orestes (Michael Yates) embodied human vulnerability and uncertainty, winning the sympathy of the audience. Yet at the end of the play he displayed a strength which was equally convincing. Athena (Sian Green) epitomised elegance and justice, with an understated power only revealed in the climactic confrontation with the Furies. Green’s performance was impressive and portrayed Athena’s character with great complexity and depth. It was Apollo (Chris Yeates), however, whose performance was truly exceptional. The power and dignity of the god were present throughout Yeates’ performance, and the righteous force and anger conveyed in Apollo’s conflicts with the Furies contrasted with, but also complimented, the character’s gentleness in his dealings with the human Orestes. The Furies (Georgina Franklin, Idgie Beau, and Philippa Mosley) had a consistent energy and unity which made their performances, notable for excellent vocals and physicality, admirable. The Chorus, however, formed the backbone of the production, and without them much of the atmosphere and power of the performance would have been lost.

The only negative to be found lies in the question of whether or not an audience member who did not already have an understanding of the mythology behind the tragedy would have followed the storyline. This is an issue which underlies the play itself, and I feel that every measure was taken to facilitate the audience’s understanding of this particular production. Even if not every audience member would have grasped the more complex details of the thematic development of the play, they would, doubtless, have understood enough for the key scenes to be appreciated.

Overall, having entered the chapel with low expectations, I was thoroughly impressed by this production of ‘The Furies’. It created an atmosphere which I will not soon forget and with which I will probably associate the Oresteia trilogy from now on. Each and every member of the cast and crew should be proud of the production, and I wish them every success in their coming performances.

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