Review of Agamemnon
|“Greek tragedy with African twist”
by Nina Romain for remotegoat on 30/09/08
Director Dumle Kogbara puts a classic tragedy in a modern African context, with Aeschylus’ tale. In Greek mythology, Agamemnon, husband of Clytaemnestra, was the commander of the Achaeans in the Trojan War when Helen, wife of Menelaus, was abducted by Paris of Troy.
The play starts with Agamemnon (Dempsey Bovell) now away leading the Greek expedition for the last decade, leaving a Watchlady (Patrice Edwards) waiting for the signal that Troy has been captured.
The modern-day setting is assisted by costume designer Shana Mongwanga (who also plays Chorus) who makes the costumes the sets, by dressing the actors in a blaze of primary colours in traditional African clothing. This visual riot is offset with an almost-bare stage, making it even more vivid.
Yrsa Daley-Ward makes her striking Clytaemnestra a statuesque femme fatale, plotting to murder her husband while taking his cousin Aegisthus (Darren Oderinde) as a lover. She is well-matched by Keshia Watson as Cassandra, who was brought back by Agamemnon and the prophet whose fate was to be always right but never believed. She edges in and out of hysteria as the others try vainly to sooth her as she predicts the future.
The accents are varied, mainly accurate but edging in and out of pure Home Counties, and the action a little slow in the first half, then suddenly accelerating when on his return home, Agamemnon is murdered by Clytemnestra.
At this point, the audience realises it would have been rewarding to see both Agamemnon and Aegisthus given a larger part to play. However, this original and thought-provoking adaptation is very much the women’s play – and is all the better for it.
This new setting of Aeschylus’ tale still has the themes of love, disloyalty and power-struggles remaining universal and timeless.