Agamemnon’s Return, the opening play of Zinnie Harris’ This Restless House, an adaptation of Aeschylus’ Oresteia, is saturated in sex. The trilogy is spread across one single production and a double bill, and director Dominic Hill takes visible delight in splitting open the characters and examining their entrails.
Mostly, this means Pauline Knowles’ deeply complex Clytemnestra, driven to revenge for both Agamemnon’s sacrificial murder of their daughter, Iphigenia, and his infidelity with the slave, Cassandra (Itxaso Moreno) while away at the Trojan war. Iphigenia’s ghost and the young Electra flitter in and out of the action, identically dressed, their presence a constant foreboding.
The feel is epic, chivied along by a chorus of old men and made solid in George Anton’s tired but not beaten Agamemnon. His murder is a gory high point of Hill’s finely-crafted production, conjuring scenes from nothing on the nearly bare, opened-out stage and making skilful use of Nikola Kodjabashia’s splintered music.
Keeping the actors always on stage makes them an encroaching force which comes into play in the second and third parts: The Bough Breaks showing Electra’s matricide and then her haunting by her parents in Electra and Her Shadow.
Olivia Morgan gives full range to Electra’s internal divisions and then her madness in the final part, which is largely set in a mental hospital. Anita Vettesse is superb as a conflicted doctor, who Electra drags into her own world of gods, hauntings and retribution.
There are stunning performances all round from a 10-strong, multitasking cast and great craft and care is visible on stage. Each of the three separate plays has its own internal power, but none is a truly self-contained entity, while the trilogy feels disconnected and fails to become the unified whole that it might.