14 June 2009

The presence of ancient Greece

It was Greek tragedy that took my Saturday night this week: Agamemnon. It’s the first of a trilogy of plays by Aeschylus based around the Trojan War. The Trojan War and the Gods and various internecine murders and seductions seem to be the staple of Ancient Greek theatre, and this was one good example. The cast includes a wise old woman, the Furies, Clytemnestra the queen, King Agamemnon the king and the seer Cassandra. Clytemnestra has been awaiting the King’s return for 10 years, while he’s been off achieving manly victory over Troy. She’s led the city, Argos, for that time and become powerful and independent. She awaits his return to seek revenge for his sacrificing of their daughter for good luck in the war effort. He returns with Cassandra, beautiful daughter of Priam, the dead Trojan king, but now slave and concubine, and Clytemnestra does them both in. The parting scene sees Clytemnestra confusing Cassandra’s return as a ghost with her own daughter.

It was a small, local amateur production, but well presented and easy to follow. It had been rewritten (with "a great many liberties") by one of the production group, Rachel Hogan of WeThree, into modern English from various English translations. Megan and I found it powerful, surprisingly feminist (it’s not the only Greek play from a woman’s point of view) and a very worthy effort from the group. Surprisingly for me, Clytemnestra turned out to be played by a workmate, Jenna Arnold, so there was a personal connection, too.

For the sake of CJ, I should give this a jazz twist. I can think of two. Firstly, Alex Johnson, one of the musical contributors, is currently a third year student at the Jazz School. Secondly, a favourite blues of mine is The prophet of doom, sung by Cassandra Wilson, on David Murray’s fabulous album, Sacred ground. The prophet of doom is the Cassandra of this very story: “My name is Cassandra, daughter of Hecuba, priestess of Athena, student of Apollo, sister of Paris, they call me the prophet of doom” … “never think that because you’re a god, every girl will put out for you”. That's a nice line for the girls! It was much enjoyed; small and intimate and local theatre. Recommended. There are still some performances on 17-20 June at the Belconnen Community Theatre; for tickets phone 6251 2981.

No comments: