Electra is a play about vengeance and John Ward’s adaptation stays true to its uniquely ancient Greek roots.

Nothing is beyond words if you know what to say

This quote from Electra (Lydia Larson) stands out in Ward’s adaptational mix of spoken word and prose. It’s spat out by Larson in a performance full of vengeful, feisty pluck. Larson breathes verbal fire, her character peppered with tiny cracks that each reveal a truly murderous intent beneath the surface. Every appearance is a titbit that hints at her true acting potential, a glorious morsel that we gobble up, addicted and hungry for more. DumbWise Theatre have cast well.

Electra Bunker Theatre

Lydia Larson (image courtesy of Lidia Crisafulli)

But while Larson demands our full attention when she’s on stage (and that is a lot), Electra is made up of far more than its leading lady. It’s a production full of energy, the kind that creeps under your skin and gets into your bones. The unrelenting boom of the drums drives us on – it propels Orestes (Dario Coates) in his need to revolt and return home; it fuels the evil whims of Clytemnestra (Sian Martin), her barbed, spiky attitude cutting everyone in its path to shreds. Ward and DumbWise present a gig theatre performance that isn’t perfect and doesn’t always have the requisite impact, but it sure does pack a punch.

Electra Bunker Theatre

Dario Coates (Image courtesy of Lidia Crisafulli)

Electra is a play about vengeance and Ward’s adaptation stays true to its uniquely ancient Greek roots. Every scene is deliciously laced with a poisonous intent, be that a quietly approaching menace or the full force of some monolithic wrath. The cast present a variety of personalities, each cleverly complemented by the music and visual design. David Hewson effortlessly weaves composition into the show, as natural and effective as Sherry Coenen’s subtle lighting shifts. The music is itself a fusion, an extension of Ward’s concept that transports this classic tale into a more modern context. We mix punk rock and electronica with some Grecian Neoclassicism to act as an otherworldly undercurrent to the story, which itself will benefit from stronger modern references. Ward seems unsure on how far to merge the two historical periods and as such, flippant nods to CCTV, bugs and technology are more confusing than conniving.

Electra Bunker Theatre

Dean Graham (image courtesy of Lidia Crisafulli)

While the reunion between siblings is indeed tender and sweet, thanks in the main to Larson’s ability to elevate the performance of every other actor in her presence, it’s the darker emotions that hold sway over this production. The restrained rage in Martin’s interview to her subjects is menacing and full of subtext; the unflinching duty to which Aegisthus (Matt Brewer) commits wholeheartedly makes these two a dangerous duo indeed.

Electra Bunker Theatre

Sian Martin & Matt Brewer (image courtesy of Lidia Crisafulli)

But in the end, the inevitable revolution doesn’t come from the masses – it’s all a family drama. The Greek masks fall, the true colours are revealed, and we can bask in Electra’s climactic glory. Ward presents a rough and ready performance, one that can benefit from being tighter but with no less polish. The edges of this show should stay frayed, as it’s in this anarchy where Electra’s magic lies.

 

 

★★★★☆

Electra runs at The Bunker until 24 March 2018. For further information, please visit the venue website.