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Under the Curse

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, in a new version by Dan Farrelly
Gate Theatre
(2003)

It is sad that, in its current configuration with seats at both ends, the Gate can only squeeze in seventy people. This limits the numbers that are able to see Catherine McCormack's exceptionally moving Iphigenia in the last play of the theatre's excellent short Greek season.

Under the Curse is a new version of Goethe's Iphigenia in Tauris, which in turn draws from Euripides' play of the same name. Under Joe Hill-Gibbins' direction, Dan Farrelly has presented a poetic contemporary translation that on occasion raises the heroine to feminist icon.

Hill-Gibbins has set out to portray the great mental torment of the cursed descendants of Tantalus; and of King Thoas (Peter Guinness) who unwittingly offers them sanctuary after the Trojan Wars.

The director possibly takes minimalism too far with a bare set apart from a symbolic hole at its centre; and a soundtrack that specialises in industrial white noise. This concentrates attention on the verbally-duelling actors who take it in their stride and make good use of the open space.

Miss McCormack plays Iphigenia, a priestess of Diana, torn between loyalty to the King who has housed her and familial love for her brother. The latter, Aidan McArdle's Orestes, is a man forced to relate to her the tragic tale of their parents, Agamemnon and Clytemnestra, aided by Tom Smith's level-headed Pylades.

The play builds to a tense climax as Thoas has to decide whether to allow the guests to leave, taking a part of his country with them or to foment yet another war.

This is a satisfying production with Miss McCormack in sparkling form as the anguished heroine for whom truth can be a curse, while McArdle and Guinness each give low-key, quiet performances.

This Under the Curse season was made up of :
Electra
Under the Curse
The Riot Act

Reviewer: Philip Fisher