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  • Lyra Caughley

Review: Iphigeneia at Aulis

Words by: Lyra Caughley (she/her)

Victoria Ancient Theatre Society’s first offering this year, Iphigeneia at Aulis, adapted Euripides’s tragedy concerning Agamemnon’s mythic decision to sacrifice his own daughter. As someone who’s been obsessed with classical myth during past studies, I was enchanted by this show’s atmosphere and the chilling clarity of its storytelling.

The stage was a long rectangle situated between two seating blocks, so the actors were constantly performing side-on to the audience, or turning and pivoting to address each block in turn. This brought to mind a painting on an ancient Greek vase, and the small venue and proximity to the stage only reinforced this impression. Actors’ profiles were revealed in stark clarity—every grimace, every tear, every flicker of emotion. The costumes (Lillian Graham, Lizzie Bysouth) were gorgeously designed with layered drapery, patterns, tassels and jewellery. The music, particularly Cate Sharma’s live clarinet performance and the chorus’s enchanting vocals, breathed further life into the show’s atmosphere. I felt as if I was being drawn into a living painting, epic and intimate all at once. 

The only drawback of the staging was that it restricted the audience’s access to a few powerful moments, such as a confrontation between Menelaus (Lincoln Swinerd) and Agamemnon’s slave (Zachary Klein) where the former’s fury and the latter’s defiant glare were utterly chilling, but large sections of the audience would have been unable to see both actors’ expressions. I was only fortunate enough because I saw the show twice.

Lincoln Swinerd as Agamemnon was persuasive and deeply sympathetic, especially in his subtler reactions—the quiver of his lip as he clung to silent composure, for example, or the moments where he covered his mouth, as if fearing he was about to throw up. Swinerd’s claimed misery in the early scenes occasionally struck me as slightly incongruent with his restrained delivery, but this hardly detracted from the overall power of his performance, which only grew more layered as the play progressed. Scarlett Rumble’s performance as Clytemnestra was compelling and utterly harrowing, and Anna Curzon-Hobson as Iphigeniea nailed every emotional beat, from joy to despair to radiant, chilling resolve. I was charmed by the brash sincerity of Noah Kaio as Achilles, and mesmerised by the chants and proclamations of the chorus (brilliantly led by Ava O’Brien).

While I lack background familiarity with the play, this translation struck me as crisp and powerful and transparent, and evidently faithful to the idiosyncrasies of the original text. The language drifted slightly into modern slang in more comedic moments—like the chorus lusting over Greek heroes—but never to the point of cheapening its subject matter. The unfamiliar values of such an ancient story were presented faithfully for the audience to grapple with, and inevitably find humanity in.


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