‘The perfect juxtaposition of mockery and horror’: A Review of DramaSoc’s Agamemnon

Jacob Bassford reviews the Week 12 DramaSoc weekender show of Steven Berkoff's Agamemnon, directed by Miranda Mufema, for SCENE. 4 stars.

(Image: Almira Moldovan)

Last year, I had the pleasure of reviewing a DramaSoc performance of Electra. On Friday 17th May I was able to attend the precursor to that tale, a performance of Agamemnon, based on the play by Steven Berkoff. 

Berkoff’s play was inspired by Aeschylus’ version of the famous Greek tragedy, and director Miranda Mufema was able to bring Berkoff’s version to life, with inspired direction and comedy that was able to achieve the perfect juxtaposition of mockery and horror.

As in Aeschylus’ myth, the play opens with the King of Argos Agamemnon (played superbly by the ever-present of DramaSoc, Sam Jackson) being summoned to war because of the catastrophic actions of Paris of Troy. 

Before the play began, the audience of the Drama Barn were entreated to a pre-show of the cast performing mimes. As far as I could tell these mimes were irrelevant to the story, but in the true spirit of Berkoff, they set the tone of the play ahead with nervous laughter from the audience as a result of the interactive performances.

This interpretation of the Agamemnon was full of powerful theatrical devices, grotesque humour combined with graphic dialogue as the cast told the narrative of the Trojan War, donned up in the white make-up of mime artists in a compelling tribute to Classical Greek theatre. 

At times the dialogue was really exaggeratory, almost mimicking the grandiose nature of Homeric storytelling, but it was also deliberately brutal, to remind the audience of both how tales of heroic deeds in war get over-embellished, and the true cost of war, ten years trying to conquer Troy all for Pariz’ lust. This meant that the audience were thoroughly engaged throughout.

The performance was short (only 70 minutes in length), which was compensated for by a possibly too drawn-out pre-show, but the acting by all was superb. Freya Leadbetter shone as Clytemnestra, delivering haunting vocals and delicately nuanced acting that showcased perfectly the trials and tribulations that Clytemnestra was pushed to whilst her husband was away at war for ten years. This eventually drove her into murdering Agamemnon after he returned from Troy with an abducted mistress, the prophetess Cassandra (played excellently by Sophie Pounder). 

In a nice subtle twist from the Greek legend, Clytemnestra’s lover Aegisthus is introduced on stage after the murder of Agamemnon, showcasing how Clytemnestra had been pushed to those actions by her husband rather than by her own maliciousness. 

The rest of the cast, Charles Kellet, Holly Roberts, Ghulia Ghiglione, James Pennington, and Louis Kent, shone across their multi-role performances, enabling the play to be performed in true Berkoff style that still had its own originality and modernity thanks to the direction and vision of Mufema.

Ultimately, whilst the narrative was sometimes difficult to follow (especially in the first act), the cast were able to deliver a compelling and accessible version of one of the great stories of The Curse of the House of Atreus.

The next weekend show by the University of York Drama Society in the Drama is ‘Home, I’m Darling’, written by Laura Wade and directed by Cerelia Chamberlain, from 24th-26th May. Tickets are available here.  

One thought on “‘The perfect juxtaposition of mockery and horror’: A Review of DramaSoc’s Agamemnon

  1. I love how the Director pulled out deep talen from the actors and how well she understands Berkoff’s style.

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