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Mark Fisher
Edinburgh, Scotland, United Kingdom
Follow me @markffisher and @writeabouttheat I am an Edinburgh-based freelance journalist and critic specialising in theatre and the arts. Publications I write for include the Guardian, Scotland on Sunday and the Scotsman. I am the author of The Edinburgh Fringe Survival Guide: how to make your show a success, published in February 2012 and How to Write About Theatre: A Manual for Critics, Students and Bloggers published in July 2015. From 2000-2003, I was the editor of The List magazine, Glasgow and Edinburgh's arts and events guide. See my website for more information and comprehensive Scottish theatre links.
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Sunday, September 16, 2012

Waiting for Orestes (Electra), theatre review

Published in the Scotsman

NOT for the first time this year have we seen a classic drama played out in a psychiatric hospital. Like Alan Cumming’s recent Macbeth, Tadashi Suzuki’s mesmerising treatment of the Euripides play is set among white aprons and wheelchairs.  

In the belief that “all the world’s a hospital”, Suzuki has returned to this idea repeatedly in his work. In an institutional setting, he can observe characters who have direct access to their most intense feelings. But the aspect that hits you most powerfully in this 60-minute, espresso-shot of a production is less the setting than the exacting control the director yields over the performers of the Suzuki Company of Toga. It’s as if every breath, every pulse, every gesture and syllable has been choreographed to yield maximum tension.

You feel at any moment something will snap and the deep, dangerous psychological forces that keep this ancient Greek tragedy alive will be unleashed.

Above all is the compelling figure of Yoo-Jeong Byun as Electra, furious at her mother’s murder of her father and waiting for her brother Orestes to enact revenge. Stock still, centre stage, she is frighteningly composed. Arms jutting like wings, one leg up as if ready to propel her out of the wheelchair, she has the concentration of a bird of prey, alert, silent and ready to pounce.

She is a central presence almost from the start, yet the show is half-way through before we hear her voice. The ferociousness of her internal monologue, relayed by the chorus of topless male patients, becomes too great to keep in: “Orestes will return.”

With Chieko Naito as her mother, Clytemnestra, a towering giant of amoral self-justification, and Midori Takada performing live percussion with the same precision and elemental restraint as the actors, the production is a vital masterclass in theatrical control.
Rating: ****

© Mark Fisher, 2012
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