With no previews, no press night, and no charge for tickets, the Young Vic and Headlong’s co production of Elektra was intriguing. As this was free would it be a cheap and cheerful production? No, in fact it turns out to be a fully realised, visually impressive and beautifully acted production worthy of a long commercial run.
Elektra is haunted by the death of her father Agamemnon, murdered by her own mother Clytemnestra, so it’s never going to be a case of happy families in the royal household. This is an Elektra tormented by her ghosts and her dreams and much of the production resembles a dream, or more accurately a nightmare. Haunting chants, dance, mime and underscoring from the outset set the piece perfectly.
In the title role, Lydia Leonard is onstage from the moment the audience enter to the blood-soaked end and delivers a performance of amazing power. Her Elektra is an emotional wreck, yet at the same time still a powerful force to be reckoned with. Her mother Clytemnestra is played with icy steel by Nadia Cameron-Blakey while Amanda Hale tries to be the sane voice of reason in the family.
Despite the tickets being free, there’s been no skimping on the staging, Holly Waddington’s marbled tiled floor is smashed and ripped up during the action and Guy Hoare’s impressively moody lighting combines with Tom Mills’ evocative soundscape to create an ever present aura of grief.
Anne Carson adaptation of Sophocles text flows with poetic pace although some modern intrusions do slightly jar – “howling bitch” for example. Director Carrie Cracknell ensures the tension builds until the inevitable bloody climax and directs with pace and precission.
This Elektra is a production that cries out for a life beyond this run; a gripping, accessible, visual and acting treat of a classic text. Once again Headlong and the Young Vic have shown they are leading the field in presenting quality, innovative theatre.