The Eumenides is the first production of the Ottawa Theatre School’s 3rd year Conservatory Program’s graduating class. It’s the third part of the Oresteia by Aeschylus – one of the big three ancient Greek tragedians. Yes, the Ottawa Theatre School went way back to the roots of theatre for this one.
Should you see it?
What does it mean to call The Eumenides an ancient Greek tragedy? The text favours strong monologues full of heightened dialogue and drama, rather than a lot of back and forth between actors. It’s a simple plot played to audiences in a big way – which makes sense given the size of some ancient Greek theatres. This might not appeal to the occasional theatre-goer used to naturalistic shows but should be a draw for theatre lovers or those curious to experience classical theatre in its oldest form.
Even though The Eumenides is a part three, you shouldn’t worry about suffering for not knowing what came before. The show program recaps the entire trilogy if you want to know, but it’s not Lord of the Rings and the plot is pretty straightforward. To help you out: Orestes killed his mom Clytemnestra under orders of the god Apollo because she’d killed his father (and her husband). The Furies, relentless pursuers of vengeance on behalf of those slain by blood relations, are all over Orestes until Apollo sends Orestes off to Athena’s temple. There, Athena proposes a new system of justice, trial by jury instead of by retribution.
And in the hands of these OTS students, under the direction of Jodi Essery, it does so in spades. Nick Fournier as Orestes, and the only male in the nine-person class, is the very picture of despair and torment as these higher beings decide his fate. And while Tifanni Kenny makes for a regal Athene, it’s Alexis Scott’s Apollo that’s a real stand out – as one might expect for a god of Apollo’s ilk. She got a good number of chuckles as she expertly played the fine line of being cheeky and grandstanding without breaking the heightened drama and seriousness of the rest of the play.
The six-person chorus was equally strong and frightening – I wouldn’t want to run into them in a back alley – with special nod to Holly Griffith and Hannah Gibson-Fraser doing double duty as a Priestess and Clytemnestra respectively, each having their own short yet commanding scenes early in the play.
Despite a very simple staging, The Eumenides is also a visually arresting play with some great costumes and make-up. It’s got a theatre in the round type set up which works with the staging and size of the intimate studio at the OTS. (This has been the first time I’ve ever been able to sit in both the front and back row.)
If I had complaint at all, the last scene feels twice as long as it needs to be, with the main conflict already at an end, but overall it’s a very captivating piece of classically style theatre that leaves me looking forward to the next two productions from this group. (The next of which is being written by Lawrence Aronovitch who you’ll have heard us chat to in Talking Theatre, and the third of which is rumoured to be taking place in an actual barn at the Experimental Farm.)
The Eumenides runs until November 24th with tickets going for only $10. Full details in our preview (soon with photos and video).
What did you think? Orestes guilty or innocent? Would Apollo not be the ultimate drinking buddy? Join the discussion in the comments below.
All photos taken by Production Ottawa photographer, David Pasho.