Review: Techno Electra

Tom Bowden 8 May 2019
Image credit: Amy Hill

★★★

Aidan Tulloch’s new adaptation of Sophocles’ great play makes a decent stab at modernising a classic. With occasionally patchy acting, and a perhaps more cerebral than exciting pace, bring your clip-on hipster beard and your Amber Leaf to really make the most of this one.

Walking into the Corpus Playrooms, we were greeted with a relaxed atmosphere and three cast members sat onstage: in a striking directorial move, Ella Gold had these three, the Chorus, never leave the stage. Once the play started, it was not immediately clear what was happening: Tulloch’s loose translation of the original takes the form of a loose, poetry slam-style stream of internal rhymes, a move which keeps the mysticism of the Greek while not always aiding comprehension: I am familiar with the play and it took me 10 minutes to establish what was happening. It must be said that poetry slam is not to my usual taste, and indeed I am not convinced that its self-conscious style added to the drama; at times the dialogue felt like it was reviewing the play rather than acting it out. It was clearly and convincingly spoken by almost all of the cast; Lola Miller as the Chorus Leader gave a particularly strong performance and her mercurial characterisation strung the various scenes together admirably. Alice Murray’s Clytemnestra was another standout performance, along, of course, with Agnelle Groombridge’s Electra, whose convincing emotions carried the play through its hour runtime.

The ‘Techno’ element of Techno Electra was subtle but made a positive and atmospheric addition to the drama rather than distracting from its intensity; pulsing music permeated the play’s most intense moments, and the lighting team made full use of the spectrum of stage lighting at their disposal to good effect: these elements were not overused, but were present enough that they never felt intrusive. The costuming was not bold but unobtrusive, and the way different sects of the society wore different styles of clothing – the Chorus in streetwear, Aegisthus in a suit – made sense and felt contemporary.

The nature of Greek Tragedy means that the action is always going to be limited, and Techno Electra does not balk from this; bar a few instances of incongruously shouted dialogue towards the end, the production as a whole entranced, and the triadic Chorus’ constant movement about the stage kept a lightness and fluidity to the performance, keeping a hypnotic engagement with the plot. Demanding that you suspend your will to be easily entertained and fully embrace the artsiness of its conception, Techno Electra insists that you come to it on its own terms – though it will reward you if you do.