Agamemnon, King of Mycenae and titular victor of the Trojan War is back. In fact he has never really left us since Homer sang of him in The Iliad and Aeschylus put him on stage in his famous Oresteia trilogy in 458 B.C.
Nicolas Billon gives us a modern version of the story in his play Agamemnon now playing at the Factory Theatre in a staging by Theatreworks Production and the Agamemnon Collective as part of the Next Stage Theatre Festival.
Clytemnestra ready for her Agamemnon. Photo: Tanja Tiziana
Billon is reasonably faithful to the myth while providing some marvelous and often very funny twists. Agamemnon’s family is utterly dysfunctional. Aside from Agamemnon, the central figure of the play is his wife Clytemnestra (Brigit Wilson). She is a put-upon mother with troubled and troublesome children who kept a goofy lover in the house while her husband was away for ten years killing Trojans. Beneath the ditzy surface she is a bitter woman whose daughter Iphigenia was sacrificed by her husband. She has an axe to grind.
Wilson gives a fine performance bringing out the funny, ridiculous and in the end murderous aspect of one of the most infamous characters in drama.
Nigel Shawn Williams as Agamemnon is regular army. Back straight, impeccably pressed uniform, he is the victor who comes home from the war bringing Cassandra (Samantha Brown), an orphan Trojan girl. He may have done an act of chivalry or more likely brought home a war trophy.
Clytemnestra’s other daughter, Chrysothemis (Susanna Fournier), is a spoiled brat who does whatever she wants. A good, bitchy part in which Fournier does excellent work.
Billon brings the ghost of Iphigenia (Zita Nyarady) into the play. She is a silent character on stilts who hovers over the action unseen by the other people. We will see more of the ghosts that haunt the house of Atreus.
Ron Kennell is hilarious as the prancing Aegisthus. He is Clytemnestra’s lover who searches for his dildo and finds it under the cushion of the couch. There is quite a hilarious contrast between him and the mighty Agamemnon.
Daughter Electra (Amy Keating) is retarded and she sits in front of a TV playing video games throughout. She is a pathetic sight and we do not know the reason for her condition.
There is a gentle Old Man (Earl Pastko) who dozes off in an easy chair. He is a former aide de camp of Agamemnon and perhaps what is left of the old order. In Aeschylus’s play the Chorus is made up of the city elders and the Old Man is perhaps a remnant of that.
The set by Shannon Lea Doyle is a simple living room with a large couch and some other pieces of furniture. The lighting is varied and there are projections to suggest the supernatural in the hovering of the ghost.
The performance lasts less than an hour as director Sarah Kitz imposes a brisk pace. That is a very quick retelling of the famous myth which leaves much room for more depth and complexity. It is nevertheless a welcome and interesting version of a classic tale that takes us back to the fountainhead of Western literature and drama.
As to what happened to Agamemnon and Cassandra, you may want to recall the famous poem about what Lizzie Borden did to her father and stepmother.