22
Nov
14

Or Forever Hold Your Peace (The Story of Iphigenia)

 

Or Forever Hold Your Peace (The Story of Iphigenia)

La Boite Indie & Motherboard Productions

With the support of QPAC

November 12 – 29 2014

 

Reviewed by Xanthe Coward

 

iphigenia_hero

 

Well, I don’t know WHAT that is…the hero shot appears to be a mash up of Athens Fashion Week, Jane Eyre, Lauren Jackson’s Medea for Zen Zen Zo, Face Off and The Lion King. Sure, I get it – a leopard doesn’t change its spots, we wear many masks, we are aligned with many tribes, we run with the pack, we are wild at heart and of our own making, etc. – but I don’t know if it’s the best match for this production, which is in fact the best we’ve seen this year, in the line up for La Boite Indie. YOU CAN VOTE FOR IT HERE.

 

Or Forever Hold Your Peace (The Story of Iphigenia) is a show that has just about everything. It’s a contemporary Greek tragedy, complete with a stripper, a wedding and The Last Supper. Well, no, alright, not really. But nearly!

 

Do you know the story? Sure you do. Agamemnon, pressured to prove his commitment to the Trojan War before sending thousands of men to their deaths, agrees to sacrifice his daughter’s life. But that’s not the worst part! He uses the gorgeous Achilles and a last-minute sham wedding to lure the lovely girl to her untimely death, changes his mind and sees her give herself up after all! It’s not just the ancient war we’re dealing with here. This is a timely statement on the “necessity” of war v the desire for peace, the responsibilities of leadership, and the repercussions of an individual’s actions.

 

Guy and I should have propped up an iPhone and filmed our post-show discussion – it would have served as a fine review – but we didn’t think of it at the time and besides, I know how tired I look this term. I was never going to be ready for my close up, Mr DeMille.

 

iphigenia_opening

 

When we walk into The Roundhouse with our plastic cups of cab merlot (keep it classy, Brisvegas), it feels like we’ve entered life’s locker room, as the chorus of casually dressed soldiers warms up, apparently preparing for battle, for life. I can only assume they’ve been doing their drills for some time, since we’ve strolled in at the last second to take our seats. It’s a highly stylised (let’s call it choreographed) opening sequence, which immediately sets a brutal, intense, and slightly unnerving, very intimate tone. At the same time, we get a sense of something bigger than all of us; a force beyond our control. The physical discipline, rigour and collective energy inspires me to sit up straighter, though not to join Bootcamp. It’s only Wednesday but it’s already been a long week. Also, these performers are not afraid of a little eye contact. But you might be. If so, probs don’t sit in the first three rows. This is live theatre remember, at close range. INTENSE. I LOVE IT.

 

An epic soundtrack & soundscape (is there an album? I’d buy the album) by Dane Alexander, and dramatic, cinematic lighting (Daniel Anderson) fill the space and then make it sparse… I love the alternate light and shade on Peter Cossar’s face as he speaks on leadership, and the inspired use of the bank of seats opposite us. Sleswick notes in the program that he wanted to express himself as a director through this piece and this he has done in abundance. Or Forever Hold Your Peace perhaps says more about Sleswick than anyone or anything else. His is a bold world, populated by courageous, dedicated and loyal soldiers, through whom we discover an intelligent and intriguing perspective on our country’s journey and the uses of power…and theatre. Remember, I told you in 2012:

 

Dave Sleswick is a director with guts and vision. Motherboard’s La Voix Humaine will have you thinking and feeling deeply. This is not just new world theatre; it’s a new world order. Motherboard is here to stay.

 

If you caught the previous “version” of this production (also in 2012: QUT’s student company, Vena Cava, directed by Dave Sleswick, does Charles Mee’s Iphigenia 2.0), I hope you haven’t missed this one thinking it’s simply a remount. Because Sleswick has taken Mee’s polarising play and introduced Dramaturg, Morgan Rose to it, then invited all those words to a summer rooftop party with all of his friends and Djuki Mala, and thrown them into the pool with all of the furniture, the pot plants and the sound system, before wringing them out, ripping them up, and stuffing them into the pockets of a pair of cargo pants as he goes on his way through the mud run of life.

 

iphigenia_menalaus

 

He’s cast some excellent performers, including Chris Farrell, who moves like dirty mercury across the stage, and Erica Field, gorgeous in the wise vulnerable role of bridesmaid and bestie. Guy says she looks like Bryce Dallas Howard in The Help and shows me the image to prove it.

 

bryce-dallas-howard-and-the-help-movie-gallery

 

Achilles (Rowan Davie) also looks like he’s already famous, though I can’t think of whom he reminds me, and I make a mental note to start watching movies again. Menalaus (Ben Warren), the voice of Mee’s hard-wired, intelligent take on current warfare, holds us still with his compelling storytelling, the retelling of the atrocities, informing every subsequent moment. Tormented, Warren’s eyes are windows to a broken-and-glued-together-again soul. He’s beautifully supported by the chorus (easily the ensemble of the year).

 

iphigenia_wedding

 

The thrown-together wedding of, er; convenience, gives us a clash of different coloured cloth, plastic picnic wares, bright bouquets on a couple of long trestle tables, and garb that’s almost clownish, garish. We could be between the pages of a Harpers Bazaar Summer Brights edit. Or trapped in a Costumes by the Performers university production of Barnum. (There are times when I do actually like Barnum).

 

iphigenia_wedding_arms

 
It’s unfortunate that Iphigenia’s final monologue (“I like…”) – feels overwritten and overplayed but others continue to giggle long after I want to holler, in that unbearable audition panel manner, “OK. GOOD. THANK YOU”. If I were not a mother I might feel similarly about Clytemnestra’s wailing, which goes on and on, as indeed it would, as her daughter is slaughtered (in the wings, in a perfect example of the less graphic the violence viewed, the more violent the act), but this performer succeeds in sending chills down my spine, and making me hate, even more than before, her husband, Iphigenia’s father, Agememnon. The parallels are clear throughout and I can’t imagine a current political leader even considering going to such lengths to prove his loyalty to the people.

 

“…there’s another chorus at work in Iphigenia in Aulis, and that’s the one in our educated heads, reminding us how the story will end. Iphigenia will be sacrificed. Agamemnon and his army will go off to a ten-year war in which Achilles will die. Troy will burn. Odysseus will find it almost impossible to get home. And though Agamemnon will survive and return, he’ll be ambushed by his wife and revenged by his children. Greece will eat its young only slightly less literally than Thyestes ate his. Knowing all this makes us witnesses to both the necessity and the uselessness of every action. That’s the bitter absurdity of Euripides’s play.”

 

Tony Adler for chicagoreader.com

 

brycedallashoward_haveyoulostyourmind

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