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 The Theatreguide.London Review

Electra
Old Vic Theatre   Autumn-Winter 2014

Electra is as close as Greek tragedy comes to a one-woman show, and in the hands of adaptor Frank McGuinness, director Ian Rickson and actress Kristin Scott Thomas it is an electrifying and almost overpowering portrait of raw uncensored emotion. 

Sophocles' version of the Oresteia focuses almost exclusively on Electra, daughter of Agamemnon who was murdered by his wife and her lover, and forced to live with the killers, raging inwardly but unable to do anything but hope that her brother Orestes, sent away as a child for his safety, will someday return as avenger. 

There are, of course, a Chorus and other characters, but they exist largely just to instigate or respond to Electra's outpourings of passion. The only real interest of the play is in Electra, a woman possessed and defined by anger, grief and frustration, and director and actress do not hold back. 

Gaunt and worn by years of bitterness, the Electra that Kristin Scott Thomas shows us has not only stripped away everything but a few specific emotions but has lost any ability to temper or control them. When she is angry she is furious, when unhappy overcome by grief, when for a brief moment joyful she displays the pure happiness of a child. 

I'm not giving anything away when I reveal that in the course of the play news will come that the long-awaited Orestes has died, followed by evidence that the report was false, so that Electra, who already seemed to be operating at the limits of her emotional powers, is repeatedly taken to new depths and heights.

In a performance of total emotional courage and commitment, Kristin Scott Thomas takes, and takes us on, a journey of wild emotional swings that are absolutely convincing and moving, right up to the final seconds of the play, when a silent choice by actress and director adds an unexpected and movingly real touch of the deepest pathos.

Jack Lowden is an open and boyish Orestes, Peter Wight a fatherly supporter and Diana Quick an imperious Clytemnestra, while Julia Dearden, Golda Rosheuvel and Thalissa Teixeira comprise a sensitive and nicely individualised Chorus. 

But this is Kristin Scott Thomas's show, and they might as well start engraving her name on all the acting awards for the year.

Gerald Berkowitz


Review - Electra - Old Vic Theatre 2014  
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