Electra - Donmar 1997

Wednesday, 19 November, 1997

This Donmar/Chichester production of 'Electra' by Sophocles is a new version by Frank McGuinness. David Leveaux, who also directed 'Nine' at the Donmar Warehouse earlier this year, directs the play.

The story concerns 'Electra' a woman who has been lamenting the death of her father, who was murdered by her mother and her mother's lover when she was a child. Her sorrow is made worse by her not being allowed to leave the house until she agrees to remove her rags. The rags are a constant reminder to all who see her that she believes her mother has committed a grave injustice against her and her father that needs to be revenged. Electra is also holding on to the hope that her brother ' Orestes' will come back from exile and reap such revenge.

Lasting one and a half hours without an interval this is a gripping drama with a stunning performance from the popular Zoe Wanamaker. (Zoe was last at the Donmar in the 1995 production of The Glass Menagerie, for which she received an Olivier award nomination). This has to be one of her best performances on stage. Her energy and commitment is remarkable in this very difficult role. She is on stage for most of the time and the whole play rests on her ability to relate her sorrow and anguish to the audience. So important and dominating is her performance, the rest of the cast are almost insignificant.

The play, written over 2,000 years ago, is an interesting story of justice, morals and revenge, and how two sisters react differently to the murder of their father. One will fight for justice at the risk of losing her own life, while the other sister bows down to her captives in order to save her own life.

The popular press is full of praise for both the production and the performance of Zoe Wanamaker. When the play was at Chichester prior to the West End, BENEDICT NIGHTINGALE of THE TIMES said " a revival well worth catching when it moves to the Donmar." and NICK CURTIS of THE EVENING STANDARD said " truly moving and truly complex." In London, THE DAILY TELEGRAPH reviewer wrote, " Zoe Wanamaker is magnificent as Sophocles's angry, anguished heroine." DOMINIC CAVENDISH of TIME OUT says Zoe Wanamaker is "triumphant".

This is not a light play and may not appeal to everyone, but people, who love deep, thought provoking and meaningful drama will love it.

(Darren Dalglish)

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