Blood, Guts, and Greeks: Oresteia Preview

It’s being performed in Durham Cathedral

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Cameron Yule is neither just a pretty face nor leading Durham’s University Challenge team further towards the converted final. For the last few weeks he has been directing Aeschylus’s Oresteia, adapted by Robert Icke. On paper, a three hour long Greek tragedy should not work as a student production, but with Yule’s direction, a large cast of accomplished performers, and the formidable venue that is Durham Cathedral’s Chapter House, Oresteia will be an unmissable production in the Durham drama calendar.

Jack Frioozan as Orestes in Chapter House

Greek tragedy is reviled by students: it can be viewed as stale and outdated: how can a 2,500 year old play have any relevance to anyone today? Icke’s version however, is thoroughly grounded in the 21st century: at its heart the duel between war and family masterfully brought to stage by Jack Palmer whose anguished Agamemnon must decide whether to sacrifice his daughter to bring about victory for the Greek armies over Troy.

Yule is sure to contrast the epic nature of war with exploration of family relationships: indeed, the play is not just about Agamemnon, but rather the impacts of the choice he faces on his wife. Fionna Monk’s Clytemnestra promises to be a powerful matriarch reminiscent of Lady Macbeth or Hedda Tesman from Hedda Gabler. She performs fresh off her best actress win at the D’Olivier awards (the awards for the Durham Drama Festival that took place this earlier term). Talking of awards, Jack Firoozan, winner of best actor at the same ceremony will bring his talent to the role of Agamemnon's son Orestes. It is a difficult role that demands a lot from the actor as well as the audience: Firoozan has proved himself more than capable of achieving this in the past.

Fionna Monk and Jack Palmer in rehearsals

Yule’s production will be made all the more monumental by the choice of venue: Chapter House in Durham Cathedral. Once used as Professor McGonagall’s classroom from the Harry Potter films, the World Heritage Site will open up to the public for the performances.

Pulling off Orestia in such a space will be no easy feat: the almost thousand year old space’s height will provide an obstacle for performers when it comes to acoustics. However, the cast are up to tackling this challenge: this production is sure to be a memorable one that all future classical plays at Durham will be compared to.

Oresteia will be performed at Chapter House in Durham Cathedral at 7:30 on the 7th 8th and 11th of March.

Buy tickets here