Review: Agamemnon – Theatre Cipher

By Adam Collier

A translation of the ancient Greek play Agamemnon is in production through June 5th in the Annex. The producing company is a three-person ensemble called Theatre Cipher.

Agamemnon is a hybrid. One half a narration of how a king named Agamemnon won a war, in part by sacrificing his daughter to appease the Gods. And, the other half royal court revenge tragedy, in which Agamemnon’s wife plots (and – spoiler – executes) his murder.

Aeschylus wrote the original text in Greek. In this production the words are in English; the translation is by Ted Hughes.

I took a friend (more on his impressions in a moment) and an expectation to the show. The expectation, due to my previous experience with classical plays was lots of longer monologues.

Though the text is lumpy (almost no dialogue, just monologues), and the language is frequently focused on exposition (not really allowing room for poetic improvisation), this production is very resourceful.

Theatre Cipher breaks-up the text. So no ensemble member (credited in the program by first name only: Carlos, Laura, and Michelle) plays the same role for more than twenty-minutes.

My friend had a bit of trouble following the switches. “How was she suddenly saying that – and then I got that they had switched roles,” my friend joked after the show.

Lighting is used to fantastic effect. Incandescent white spotlights lend intensity to the expressions – particularly the eyes – of the actors.

All the wattage drove up the temperature of the performance space, too. My friend said that he was in discomfort by the end of the show, because of the heat. I agree – but want to phrase that in terms of a plus, and not a minus. The sweat pouring down adds poignancy to the action. (That said, it’s still worth bringing a large container of water.)

The set is a bare minimum, but a sheet with shadow projections is used with keen imagination to illustrate some of the historical exposition.

Regardless of its historical context, the dynamics of one family are really what this play is about. And I found them intriguing.

Theatre Cipher’s production seems to put an equal amount of emphasis on enriching the historical material, perhaps because it’s topical relevance, which is commendable.

Overall this is an extremely well done production. I’d strongly recommend going to it.

Details

Agamemnon by Theatre Cipher is playing at the Church Hall of Christ the Savior Cathedral (821 Manning – three blocks north of Bloor, between Bathurst and Christie)

– Performances are on Wednesday, Friday and Sunday at 8 PM between May 22nd and June 5th

– Tickets can be purchased for $10 and $20. Seating is limited.

– Tickets can be purchased at the box office or by phone (647-369-1593)