On Killing Children: Greek Tragedies on British Stages in 2015

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Laera, Margherita (2015)
  • Subject: PN0080 | PN1655 | PN2000

Contemporary theatres in Europe are currently awash with theatrical versions, adaptations and mise en scènes of ‘classical’ or ‘canonical’ works from antiquity and early modernity that are approached through the strategy of ‘actualisation’, that is, they are made to feel ‘actual’ or ‘current’ to the target audience through an act of updating of their cultural and temporal references. It is sufficient to examine a range of Greek tragedy adaptations staged in the UK in 2015 to detect this ongoing trend. Actualisation’s polar opposite, ‘reconstruction’, whereby a source is approached through a desire to see it staged ‘as it would have been staged when it was written’, has fallen out of fashion, and so have the myriad shades of grey in between actualisation and reconstruction. This paper briefly reflects on the significance of this contemporary 'obsession' with (hyper)actualisation. It asks why an active interest in stories from the past is matched by an equally forceful rejection of the cultural associations of that past. Using case studies such as Robert Icke's Oresteia (London, Almeida, 2015), I investigate the ideologically-determined strategies that attract us to the Greek 'classics', whilst at the same time removing their foreignness and alterity from our stages.
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