Directed by Amba, for her company at the time, Toss a Coin Theatre; Agamemnon was adapted from three different translations- Hughes, Berkoff and Fagle. The final text however evolved during the rehearsal process during which actors turned themselves into athletes, warriors, horses and chorus. The text was spoken, chanted, sung and acted.
“The reason the story interested me is simple. It transcends context, both cultural and social. It is a story we are less removed from than we like to think.” Says Amba.
It reminds one of Blake’s Proverb of Hell: ‘Sooner murder an infant in its cradle than nurse un-acted desires.’
The oldest surviving Greek play, ‘Agamemnon’ is a story about the body and its pleasures and pains. It is also about heat and battle, the ties of blood and the inescapability of prophesy. Every wrong is justly punished; yet, as the world goes, every punishment becomes a new wrong,
calling for fresh vengeance. It is as if crime were contagious – and perhaps it is – the dead pursued the living for revenge, and revenge could only breed more guilt.
For such guilt is more than criminal; it is a psychological guilt that modern men have felt and tried to probe. Every crime in the House of Atreus, whether children kill their parents or parents kill their children and feed upon their flesh, is a crime against the filial bond itself. Perhaps no
paradox inspired Aeschylus more than the bond that might exist between pathos and mathos, s
uffering and its significance. That bond is life itself.
The play begins with the curse. Events smudge into each other and Feast of Tantalus tells us the ghastly origins of the curse. This is a suitable horrific beginning, though horror is not what we wanted but a revelation of the crime.
Flowing motions accompany words, while sharp poses strike the occasional contrast. The action is played out by a fluid and capable ensemble, from which protagonists melt in and out as needed. The Chorus move as one or are used to furnish the frugal set, linking to form thrones or depict battlements. The use of physical movement along with descriptive, lyrical narrative allows for a dramatic build up. The use of a singing-dancing stage fighting Chorus to provide narration
and commentary is a quintessential part of ancient Greek theatre.
Live music, percussion, tambourines and chanting make up the soundscape of the play. There are songs, rhythms, ditties and the lighting lends itself to complement the physicality of the
performance, shifting from surreal green and blues to sterile white and grimy red.
Movement works with music and with light; and all of it works together
to create an orchestra of the senses.
The sets were minimal in the hope this it would help free the audience’s imagination. We believe a representational visual aesthetic is a tranquilizer to the creative imagination of the audience, while a living environment is a stimulant.
By juxtaposing minimal sets with theatrical costumes, dramatic music and lighting,
the visual focus should be on the actor.
‘Evil is unspectacular and always human.’ And this is why the terror of Agamemnon transcends the terror of most tragedy because it is so human.
This house is full of demons.
The loathsome retinue of the royal blood.
Under these painted ceilings they flitter and jabber.
They huddle on every stair.
They laugh and rustle and whisper
Inside the walls.
They shift things, in darkness
They squabble and scream in cellars.
And they sing madness
Into the royal ears. Madness.
Till royal brother defiles the bed of his brother.
The foundations of the house of Atreus
Split open when it happened,
And the evil poured out, up and out. (Cassandra)