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ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT

Orestes 2.0

You awaken in a candy pink room, on a soiled bed where a corner of the mattress has burned open into a charred gash. Here you are febrile and filthy with curdled dreams. Mad soldiers share your sweat-soaked sheets, their pallid flesh spoiled by unhealing wounds and they wear little more than dog tags to […]
By Jimmy Dalton
February 22, 2010
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Orestes 2.0

You awaken in a candy pink room, on a soiled bed where a corner of the mattress has burned open into a charred gash. Here you are febrile and filthy with curdled dreams. Mad soldiers share your sweat-soaked sheets, their pallid flesh spoiled by unhealing wounds and they wear little more than dog tags to […]
By Jimmy Dalton
February 22, 2010
  shares
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You awaken in a candy pink room, on a soiled bed where a corner of the mattress has burned open into a charred gash. Here you are febrile and filthy with curdled dreams. Mad soldiers share your sweat-soaked sheets, their pallid flesh spoiled by unhealing wounds and they wear little more than dog tags to set continuity amongst their shattered personalities. This is how Argos, once great city of Ancient Greece, punishes its matricides.

Taking Euripides' model of the Orestes tale, author Charles Mee has injected the war-weary politics of the late twentieth century into this epic of a royal family devouring itself like a rabid dog at its own rectum. The result is Orestes 2.0, a throbbing, challenging piece of work that has the potential to awaken its audience to particular blemishes upon the rosy cheeks of Western culture. That nascent theatre company Cry Havoc have undertaken this as their second production is a testament to their passion and tenacity for bringing demanding theatre to the mainstage.

Director Kate Revz and designer Lucilla Smith have developed a strong conceptual setting for this production, drawing upon the gaudy glam of David LaChapelle for Orestes' nightmarish sanitarium-scape. The Furies, three ferocious spirits of revenge, are translated into sexed-up nurses, their outfits tight and revealing, while the power players of the tragedy have raided Sylvania Waters for their wardrobe. It's a style so tasty you'd want to lick it, though you won't, because you'll probably end up with tongue herpes.

While Caitlin Porter's sound design played well amongst the convulsive mood shifts of Mee's script, Billy Cheeseman's lighting design often resorted to bathing the entire stage in a uniform wash that, for me, dropped the intensity of this production. The contours, colours and surfaces of the playing space cried out for more interrogating lights — though perhaps this choice came as a result of LaChapelle's own blazing photography, in which case I think his influence should have been turned down here.

The bright gloss of the lights was reflected in the performances of the cast, and it is here that the juggling act of Mee's script really became difficult. There is a necessity when oscillating between dialogue, monologue, verbatim transcript, dream sequences and absurdist exchanges to strive for clarity, otherwise the audience will be completely lost. Most performers maintained the clarity of their roles through a clear, well-enunciated delivery (Helmut Bakaitis' diction alone is worthy of a solo show), however this came at a cost to the darker soul of the script.

Though Orestes (Guy Edmonds) and Electra (Annie Maynard) had the convincing energy of two desperate killers, I felt as if they were still playing safe — their performances came to the lip of a precipice, but did not leap into the abyss beyond it. In contrast, the grim humour of Mee's script was executed effectively, especially through the roles of Pylades (Anthony Gooley) and the Nurses (Gemma Pranita, Olivia Stambouliah and Elan Zavelsky). Thus, through clarity and humour, the audience was kept safe from the true force of madness and fury lying beneath the surface of Orestes 2.0.

I believe that this production, coupled with the earlier Julius Caesar, is a foreshadowing of Cry Havoc's capabilities as an exciting new flavour in Sydney's theatre mix. I look forward to seeing Revz and her team raise the ante in their next production, Chekhov's Three Sisters.

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