Oresteia: four years in the making

Aeschylus’s Oresteia is the sole surviving trilogy of Ancient Greek plays and yet it is rarely performed in its entirety.

In this brief interview clip, Richard Spaul tells how in situ:’s production has taken four years to complete and why in situ: decided to attempt such an ambitious undertaking.

This December: The Oresteia Trilogy

in situ: revisits its popular adaptations of Agamemnon and Choepheroi this December, adding Eumenides to complete the trilogy.

Richard Spaul took some time out from working on the production to explain some of the thinking that went in to its development.

The Adaptation

Richard Spaul writes:

“One thing I’ve had to consider is whether any particular episode is best translated into words at all and if so whether those words are best written down or best improvised. I’ve come up with different solutions for different bits. As you will see and hear, some of it is ‘translated’ into movement, some into sound installation, some into visual artworks and some into the performers’ improvised reportage. From the very start I felt I didn’t want to ‘update’ the text and pretend the action was happening in the recent past. Still less did I want to set it in the fantasy Ancient Greece of conservative scholars. Both these solutions, although apparent opposites,
struck me as being overused and boring. I didn’t think it was a very good idea to pretend it was happening any where.

It seemed to me more interesting to try to create a sort of dialogue between ourselves, our own times and a text and period and civilisation that is only available to us through fragments, conjecture and imagination.

This accounts for a few ghosts from relatively recent history floating around who are obviously not part of the original, but who have seemed to me to be clamouring for inclusion nevertheless.

Robert Kennedy memorably and movingly quotes Aeschylus on the occasion of Martin Luther King’s assassination. And it seems to me uncanny that he was himself a member of a privileged and doomed ‘Royal House’, murdered at a moment of triumph.

Other phantoms you might or might not notice include Mussolini and his mistress Clara Petacci, the aerial bombardment of German cities during World War Two, the nervous twitches of Nazi War criminals on trial at Nuremberg, the expressionist gesturing of Martha Graham. This may simply amount to an acknowledgement that Oresteia is an extraordinarily powerful lens through which to view the unprecedented violence of the last century; but the reverse is also true – the last century is a shockingly powerful lens through which to view Oresteia – one of the earliest plays in existence.”

in situ: will perform The Oresteia Trilogy at St. Andrew’s Hall from 9-13 December.