ANNA ISAAC is left Elektrafied by this mesmerising performance.

anna isaac brid arnstein Corpus Playroom Elektra ellie kendrick ezra pound greek sophie crawford tragedy

Corpus Playroom, 31st January – 4th February, 7pm, £5-6

Directed by Ellie Kendrick

[rating: 5/5]

Now before you go and get all cross because I got out the big five, hear me out. This show wasn’t perfect, but it was brave, clever, and brilliant. If you can cope with the idea of Greek tragedy in the American Deep South, I promise you won’t regret seeing this show.

Photographs by Maya Beano

I was impressed from the off. The set was simple, which is appropriate both for tragedy and the playroom. The black square of the stage was trimmed with strips of sand which the chorus intermittently toiled. And not with the normal awful mimed labour employed by some actors – they gave a real impression of struggling in baked ground.

Full marks go to musical director Hatty Carman: the music was fittingly haunting and had the hairs standing up on the back of my neck. Credit must go to the collaboration between her and director Ellie Kendrick, as the transition between bluesy heart-wrenching harmonies and strained dialogue was at most times great. Not an easy feat. One of the best parts of this production was the vocal performances of chorus leaders Remi and Femi Oriogun-Willams, who were nothing less than mesmeric.

The hard and loud singing melted in and out of soft background sonority, and the lights were likewise carefully contrasted and cleverly thought out.  The tone of the spotlight was cold, hard and drew an effective distinction with the warmth, if not heat, of the general wash. As with all well-‘teched’ shows, you barely noticed changes in the lighting, because it was seamless.

Sophie Crawford was powerful and engaging, though at times perhaps too childish and brattish for my idea of Elektra. But having said that, I can’t deny that it felt faithful to the Pound and Fleming interpretation of the text. Crawford acted this refreshing take on the play incredibly well. At her best, she was a compelling St Joan-like figure of female power.  She knows how to use her body to communicate with her audience, which is a rare quality in a young actress.

Chrysothemis’ (Rozzi Nicholson-Lailey’s) brittle and tort delivery stole the show. As one of the most conflicted characters in the tragedy, her inner turmoil was subtly acted. Brid Arnstein bounced off the childish Elektra perfectly, and had a really unpleasant and violent poise as Klytemnestra.

My main gripe with this adaptation of Pound and Fleming is that it isn’t very generous to the part of Orestes, but Dominic Biddle did his best to give a masculine potency to a female-dominated play, assisted by the strong physical presence of Lewis Wynn as Pylades.

Accents were a bit patchy and one particular attempt at Scottish left more than a bit to be desired, but it speaks for the talented ensemble that this is my main criticism of the production. That moment aside, Arthur Sturridge gave a convincing and charismatic perfomance as Aegisthus/Tutor.

When a group of real talent tackles such an interesting and new (to our shores at least) translation of Greek tragedy, one feels privileged to review it.