Review: Oresteia Is 'Impressive, Artistic And Thought-Provoking'

By Harriet Wilson
Wednesday 09 September 2015

Oresteia, currently playing at Trafalgar Studios, is a contemporary retelling of the Greek tragedy. Adapted by Robert Icke (who also adapted 1984), the production is passionate, subtle and stylistic. The more you think about Oresteia, the better it gets.


An artistic style was particularly pivotal within this production of Oresteia. At times, the style came across as slightly clinical – and very similar to 1984 – which jarred a little with the family-based tragedy: at one point, the focus was brought to breast-feeding in an extremely grounded way; at another point, the 'happy' family scene was portrayed as extremely mechanical.

Mainly though, the style worked well. The performance began in a muddled, confusing way, which set the mood perfectly – but the audience wasn't left confused for long enough for this to be at all off-putting. Similarly, a fantastically clever doppelgänger effect between two characters (I won't say who, because it will spoil the ending) was superbly subtle, and yet made perfect sense when 'the twist' was revealed. This particular artistic move was put together absolutely flawlessly and was, arguably, the most tragic part of the show – in that it was so personal.

Passion is the foundation of all tragedy, and there was plenty of it within Oresteia at Trafalgar Studios. There were some incredible moments. Lia Williams (Klytemnestra) stood on a table at one point, with blood on her hands, and filled the auditorium with such passionate energy that I was completely blown away.

It is indisputable that the passion which grew and grew throughout Oresteia rested on extremely strong acting. I have already mentioned Lia Williams, but I have not done her credit. Her acting was absolutely inspirational. The character of Klytemnestra is essentially a combination of countless strong emotions, and Lia Williams somehow managed to convince the audience that she really did feel all of these emotions, all at once.

Jessica Brown Findlay made an excellent transition from TV to stage (this being her stage debut). Much like Lia Williams, she exuded passion. She also managed the difficult task of always appearing just a little bit distanced from reality – this grew subtly. I was also particularly impressed by Luke Thompson, whose relatable acting brought the shown down to earth. It is rare that you see a internal conflict played out so eloquently.

Suffice to say, the entire cast was extremely impressive. I have only mentioned the three that stood out the most for me, but I really couldn't flaw any of the performances within this production. Every characterisation was thought through to the smallest detail – this was very much three-dimensional acting. The more you looked, the more you found.

The set, lighting and sound were also very good. They strongly emphasised the style of the show and, again, although this was sometimes a little contradictory, it worked well overall. The whole design was very much a constructed piece of art – perhaps this production is meant to be thought about, not just watched. It is a play for scholars.

Oresteia is currently playing at Trafalgar Studios. If you want to see something with depth that is impressive, artistic and thought-provoking, I urge you to see this production.

Harriet Wilson

Please note: Opinions expressed on the blog are those of the relevant contributors, not of London Theatre Direct Ltd, its owners or staff. London Theatre Direct Ltd is not responsible for the accuracy of any of the information supplied by contributors.

More Oresteia blog posts

Review: A Standing Ovation for Oresteia Wednesday 09 September 2015