from an original work by Euripides
Helen Edmundson’s Orestes is a drama about avenging siblings, exploring the tragedy of human relationships set against the backdrop of war. It is based on Euripides’ Electra. Orestes was first performed by Shared Experience at the Yvonne Arnaud Theatre, Guildford, on 14 September 2006.
Orestes and his sister, Electra, were banished as children after witnessing the brutal murder of their father, King Agamemnon, at the hands of their mother, Klytemnestra. Years later, they have avenged their father’s death with matricide and now the city must vote to determine their future as they stand trial for her murder. Inflamed by the situation of war, the city stands divided over their sentence. Some say the killing should be met with banishment and that the cycle of revenge must be stopped. But others are baying for their blood.
In her foreword to the published edition of the play, Edmundson writes 'I have played fast and loose with the conventions of Greek theatre and with Euripides’ version of the story. I have abandoned the Chorus (who is not active or influential in the Euripides) in favour of the more subtle witness of the Slave. I have cut the character of Pylades to allow Electra her full role in the story and to allow myself to explore the extremities of her relationship with her brother. I have given Helen an intelligent, probing mind and allowed her and Klytemnestra some defence. I have chosen not to emulate the verse structure and metres of Euripides’ text, but to try to create a rhythmic, heightened language of my own.'
The play's full title in the published edition is Orestes: Blood and Light.
The Shared Experience production was directed by Nancy Meckler and designed by Niki Turner, with Tim Chipping as Menelaos, Jeffery Kissoon as Tyndareos, Mairead McKinley as Electra, Clara Onyemere as Helen, Claire Prempeh as the Slave and Alex Robertson as Orestes. The production subsequently toured to Dublin Theatre Festival, Warwick Arts Centre, The Lowry in Salford, Liverpool Playhouse, Oxford Playhouse and the Tricycle Theatre, London.