Agamemnon, Norwich

What a shame this company didn't have the confidence to trust the original tragedy's ability to snare the audience. Twilight and the cloistered atmosphere of the Plantation Gardens in Norwich would have lent itself beautifully to Agamemnon and a Greek kingdom, poised in the half light between a ravaged past and a bloody future.

By MIRANDA YATES

What a shame this company didn't have the confidence to trust the original tragedy's ability to snare the audience.

Twilight and the cloistered atmosphere of the Plantation Gardens in Norwich would have lent itself beautifully to Agamemnon and a Greek kingdom, poised in the half light between a ravaged past and a bloody future.

The decision to modernise as well as heavily abridge Agamemnon aided accessibility in some respects, in that each time a mythical character appeared, he was introduced with a full comic biography.

However, the main action is so frequently stalled by helpful explanations and flashbacks, that it becomes difficult to follow the plot, and much of the tension is lost.

That this play is a tragedy was somewhat overlooked in the attempt to create sure-fire entertainment. Most characters are played for laughs. Cassandra is a sulky young northerner, cursing her fortunes like Harry Enfield's Kevin the Teenager, while Aegisthus wields a gigantic whip and sneers into the audience, pantomime villain style. Most figures are funny and well acted but when they appear without their dignity the tragedy relinquishes its hold.

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But there were 21st century touches that worked, most notably the soldiers. All have American accents and when they talk about chemical weapons and cycles of retribution, their speech carry the same visceral qualities found in Aeschylus, and the tragedy of war acquires poignant universal significance.

All credit should go to the actors for the vigour and energy they invest in one of the most challenging pieces of theatre you could choose to perform.

t Agamemnon runs until Sunday July 29.

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