Family revenge explored in Griffin’s formidable modern Greek tragedy

This review can also be found on Griffin Theatre Company’s blog and on TheatreNow.

“Two Sisters- Three! – No. Two”

Griffin Independent and Stories Like These united last Wednesday in the premier of Anna Barnes’ modern Greek tragedy ‘MinusOneSister’. This haunting story, led by Luke Rogers’s direction with a talented cast and crew, explores themes of family, grief, revenge and guilt. An adaption of the myth of Electra, this fragmented and non-linear production explores the ways in which violence and anger can destroy a family.

Playwright Anna Barnes has produced a formidable modern adaption of Sophocles’ Electra. Her writing skilfully alternates between the staccato telegraphese of the Greek Chorus and the harsh realism of familial arguments. The script craftily deviates through time and location, Barnes begins a monologue discussing one thing and uses allegory to draw you in before you realise you’ve arrived someplace else.

Director Luke Rogers has created a strong balance in the dichotomy of the fast paced chorus scenes and intense naturalistic dialogue. Interesting too, is his decision to include the “there but not” sister, Iphigenia (Lucy Heffernan), whose angelic presence constantly enforces the corrupted innocence caused by her death.

Four skilled young actors brought this play to life with gusto. Kate Cheel suited Electra perfectly, her vivacious and bitter persona an indicator of the devastating impact of family violence. Chrysothemis, Electra’s polar opposite, is played by Contessa Treffone- an anxious sister attempting to forcibly keep the family together. Liam Nunan brought the young Orestes to life with eagerness and innocence, gradually maturing in response to the horrors he experiences.

A standout of this production is the design. Georgia Hopkin’s dilapidated set is reminiscent of a house under renovations, symbolic of the family’s relationships. The holes on the wall convey the damage sustained, while the plastic covering reflects a failure to ‘fix’ their problems, only   to avoid and aggravate them. Sian James-Holland’s sterile and erratic lighting, accompanied by Nate Edmondson’s tense horror music, propelled the scene changes and maintained the fast pace. Despite the gory context of the play, the designers conveyed the dark mood subtly, with clever use of black light and a bloody table.

For someone with limited knowledge of Greek Theatre, this modern adaption definitely spiked my interest to research its classical roots. The writing, design and performance came together brilliantly to produce a fast paced, engaging work that drew you in and spat you out. As the house lights came on, I was reminded of the timeless nature of the themes presented in this 4th century BC classic, and how love, anger, and revenge will always exist in plays, regardless of context.

MinusOneSister is on at Griffin till October 3.

4 stars

Jo Bradley.

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