CULTURE

An original and daring take on Aeschylus’ ancient Oresteia trilogy

One of Europe’s oldest theater companies, the Frankfurt Schauspiel, is staging an almost six-hour daring journey from the bitter world of revenge to the brighter atmosphere of established laws. Aeschylus’ Oresteia cycle will go on stage once more at the Ancient Theater of Epidaurus today, following yesterday’s performance. Director Karin Neuhauser’s approach tries to bridge the gap between the past and the present and create analogies between ancient memory and mythology with Germany’s past and contemporary history. Relying on a relatively small cast, which alternates in playing the various characters of the three tragedies -«Agamemnon,» «The Libation Bearers» and «Eumenides» – Neuhauser traces the story both in its mythological setting and in its modern outcome. She uses various tricks in her approach, such as the chorus in «Agamemnon» which consists of three lead adults and a group of children (a reference to the Hitler Youth) – living proof of the destructive consequences of every war. The huge rusted facade of the Mycenaean palace, which could be interpreted as a reference to the Iron Curtain, is a symbol of power and gloom, feelings that can only be resolved through bloodshed. Clytemnestra, who drags the tail of her long white gown in a pool of blood, invokes both awe and terror. In «The Libation Bearers,» the performance uses opera techniques and tries to strike a balance between the ancient text and the modern approach. The huge reversal takes place in the third and final tragedy, «Eumenides,» where the court of justice is turned into a modern entertainment show, the Pythia is the host and democracy is portrayed as the equivalent of an entertainment show on TV. Orestes even uses the words «and the winner is….» to announce the court decision. This German take on the Oresteia is strongly political and explores aspects of democracy. Karin Neuhauser started her career as an actress in both theater and film and received various international distinctions for her performances. She has worked with some of Germany’s most acclaimed directors, such as Frank Castorf and Christoph Marthaler and has been directing since 2001. Productions she has directed so far include «Medea,» Friedrich Schiller’s «Mary Stuart» and Anton Chekhov’s «Three Sisters.» The Oresteia opened at the Frankfurt Schauspiel main stage on October 14, 2006, and was greatly praised in the German press. «Agamemnon» lasts 110 minutes, «The Libation Bearers» 65 minutes and «Eumenides» 55 minutes. The performance starts at 9 p.m. and will run to about 3 a.m., with two breaks in between.