Categories for Adaptation

Review of Frank McGuiness’s adaptation Essay

Review of Frank McGuiness’s adaptation Essay

On the 7th October, my Drama group and I went to see the Greek tragedy “Electra” at The Old Vic Theatre in London, adapted by Frank McGuiness. It was directed by Ian Rickson and starred Kirstin Scott Thomas who plays the lead role of Electra. This play follows Electra throughout all the different stages of grief she goes through following the murder of her father Agamemnon. Unwilling to forgive and consumed by a desire for revenge, her anger builds; on the return of her brother Orestes, Electra’s wrath then explodes without mercy, leading to a bloody and terrifying conclusion.

Within this play there are strong elements of grief, addiction and an intense need for restitution. Electra is filled with loss from the pathological, addictive grieving over her father who was murdered many year before hand, by her mother and step-father, which traumatic aftershock has left Electra withered and motionless as well as in need of revenge as a sort of compensation for the loss of her father, to the fresh grief over her brother.

The set of the play is extremely minimalistic, with small feature which make up the arena; a tap, a fire pit, a tree and two pillar with a door in between them are featured on the stage, and I believe these component are symbolic of the four element, fire, earth, water and air. The tree however is barren and the branches are cut off before their time. This is representative of Electra’s father, Agamemnon as he was murdered but also because his family line is no more, he can no longer have any more children to pass on his name.

The door is old and decaying which represents Electra’s family as its slowly falling apart, however it also establishes a huge divide between the inside and outside, essentially creating two separate worlds. These two worlds represent places of oppression. The characters behave appropriately within the inside world as well as by the unspoken rule of the place. The outside is an area where the characters reveal their true colours, nevertheless at the end of the play the two worlds collide.

The stage itself is in the round, meaning audience members are able to see each other’s reactions, this is effective as it adds a degree of intimacy to the play, but also because the audience is able to see the play but more importantly the characters from every angle creating a sense of vulnerability, as everything is exposed to the viewer’s eyes. Electra abandons the regal clothes bestowed to her by her mother and completely neglects herself.

She is first presented in a ragged, grey dress, held together by a leather belts which eventually she takes off, representing the release of the pent up anger, which she has held on to for so long. She is constantly fiddling with her dress and putting it in between her legs, revealing a more immature nature but also that she’s ashamed of what makes her female. During the time that this play was set, women were constantly oppressed and were seen as unable figures, for example Electra wishes both her step father and mother dead.

Electra lacks the capacity to do so, as she is restricted by her gender, which is shown at the end, as despite all of Electra’s defiant speeches, ultimately her brother Orestes is the one who kills both their mother and step father. She also appears shoeless which suggest that she has freed herself from the class system, as an individual without shoes is normally associated with the lower class, however she comes from nobility, which previously was one of the elements that oppressed her, also she is presented with wild hair illuminating a feral nature.

Opposingly Electra’s mother Clytemnestra is presented in regal clothing, and is always composed, she tends to move in line rather than curves which Electra moves in. When Electra confronts hers mother, although she holds herself in a strong position, she can never look her mother, which suggest a strong hatred towards her mother. She cannot even follow the general etiquette that one gives another when conversing, controversially it could also mean that she is still bound by her daughter status, as although she’s disowned her mother, she cannot face her as an equal.

The actress Kirstin Scott Thomas really emphasizes how the situation has trapped Electra in a terrible stilted adolescence. Her defined features shining with hungry, immature naivety, she moves about in her grey shift like the ghost of someone whose life was been allowed to waste away, permanently on hold. She tortures the audience in a manner of a teenager, through her defiant authoritarianism, serving the audience as a reminder of what is lost in middle-aged compromises, for example the naivety of youth.

And yet, there is not an ounce of nostalgia in her performance. When she is finally reunited with her brother Orestes she gives way to an unbound joy, as if all her issues are now resolved. Far from their being any hints of incestuous affection in this encounter between these long-lost siblings, Scott Thomas’s Electra presses her nose to parts of his body and snuffles up his smell like a wild animal trying to get its bearings. This and her rapid U-turn into optimism brings a deliberate comical note to the gathering doom.

In conclusion, the overall production was impressive, from Scott Thomas’s indulgently neurotic performance, which give us a first impression of an independent women who sets herself free from the previous ties and status which has oppressed her for so long from speaking up about her father’s death, however Scott Thomas slowly reveals to the audience that Electra has been maddened by grief for so long, it has trapped in an disillusioned adolescence, to the in the round stage which enables the audience to emphasis with Electra, as it adds a degree of vulnerability, as everyone is visible from every angle you look at them, from the play to the surrounding audience.