18/02/2010 at 3:02 pm 7 comments

Presented by Cry Havoc for Griffin Independent, February 2010

Orestes: Prince of Argos, favoured by the Gods, matricidal maniac and sometime sociopath – Charles Mee has reshuffled the Euripidean deck to create an inverted modern myth. Only this time our protagonist is a few cards short.

Underneath his delerium there’s a simmering guilt at the horrors of his crime, but denial is a river very close to Ancient Greece, and it runs deep in the House of Atreus. Madness beckons, for surely it is easier to tread the surreal line of losing one’s mind than face such wracking pain as one must bear when murderous hatred becomes action. As such everything is set at a cartoonish tone, quickly switching between dry wit and the blood soaked horror-tragedy. It’s brutal, no-holds-barred; like getting beaten around the head and laughing all the way. Director Kate Revz’s slavish attention to the script pays great dividends for the audience as a slick, perfectly cast ensemble drag us through pain, retribution and slapstick suffering.

Mental illness is the motif which Mee has chosen to refract the light of Euripides’ classic play. The Oresteian legend draws a question mark around the ironies of a state which murders wholesale in war with one hand and executes criminals with the other. It’s concerned as much with the political commentary of the times – Orestes is a statesman, as such he is a symbol of the people both literally and figuratively. So his madness is also our madness: we live in and condone a world of selfish loathing and brutality. War is commonplace, still justified through sophistry. Orestes murdered his mother, we are killing our planet. And laughing all the way, hah hah hah.

The real subject at play is not the state but how we punish ourselves – do we slide into hysterical oblivion or carry the weight of a truth that does not bear thinking about? As such the supporting players are a critical factor in extending these questions beyond the narrative. A chorus of nurses, mental patients and murderers bring not just hilarious relief from the intensity of the work but demonstrate the ease with which we allow ourselves to be distracted from the hard questions through pop-culture, soap operas, media overload and of course, medication.

For those unfamiliar with the original myth I will refrain from giving away the climax – suffice to say the decaying, scorched, pop-plastic world evident in the set is taken to a logical conclusion. The play’s central metaphor is a life of detached convenience, pretense and mental disintegration; from beginning to end Orestes 2.0 combines the surreal, absurd, sexual and powerful dramatic substance from a committed cast. It’s very funny – but if you didn’t laugh you’d cry. Be warned, this play contains frequent obscenities, moral ambiguities, high-arching analogy and vast quantities of shocking hubris. If you sit in the front row, you may get a little wet. I know I was.

Featuring Helmut Bakaitis, Simon Corfield, Andrea Demetriades, Ivan Donato, Nicholas Eadie, Guy Edmonds, Anthony Gooley, Annie Maynard, Megan O’Connell, Gemma Pranita, Olivia Stambouliah, Elan Zavelsky.

At the Stables Theatre until March 13.

Entry filed under: Inside Theatre REVIEWS, Sydney THEATRE. Tags: , , , , , .

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7 Comments Add your own

  • 1. George  |  18/02/2010 at 3:11 pm

    Going to see this on Saturday, and this is getting me really excited. I loved their production of Julius Caesar, and have been counting down the days to Orestes 2.0. I just hope it’s as good as I imagine.

    • 2. anvildrops  |  19/02/2010 at 7:27 am

      i can only suggest you go in with no expectations whatsoever!

      • 3. George  |  19/02/2010 at 8:15 pm

        Will do…or won’t do. Whichever fits. You get the picture

  • 4. George  |  20/02/2010 at 9:43 pm

    Wow. That play was amazing. You were right about going in without expectations, and I could see that many people left after intermission because they just didn’t get it, and many older couples were there and you just knew that they wouldn’t last.

    The person next to me got popcorn but I didn’t 😦

  • 5. David G  |  24/02/2010 at 10:59 pm

    did anyone see Jason Blake’s vanilla review of this show? I went tonight, and although the audience were very passive, I believe they were all completely engaged. No one left at interval either.
    I thought it was so powerful and put together by a bunch of exceptionally talented artists.
    Everyone should see this show. More from Cry Havoc please…and less from Jason Blake.

    • 6. anvildrops  |  25/02/2010 at 10:49 am

      Hi David,
      thanks for commenting.

      My thoughts on Mr Blake’s penchant for mediocrity are well known… but this particularly irks me:

      “it requires careful orchestration to ensure that message and medium don’t interfere to the point where they cancel each other out.”

      I have no idea what this means, but i’m guessing he’s not big on Marshall McLuhan, either.

  • […] (erring on the side of convention), it’s the marketing that leaves a wake. The week my review of Orestes 2.0 was linked from their website; 5th Wall gained a record number of hits. So call it over-the-top if […]


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