Dramatic Techniques in Performing Aeschylus' Agamemnon: The Oresteia at the Royal National Theatre
Burke, A. (2005) Dramatic Techniques in Performing Aeschylus' Agamemnon: The Oresteia at the Royal National Theatre, no. 381.
This thesis explores the theoretical and dramaturgical challenges faced by modern productions of the Oresteia with particular reference to two modern Royal National Theatre productions: Sir Peter Hall's (1981) and Katie Mitchell's (1999). It argues that to appreciate these challenges requires a detailed knowledge of the theatricality of the original text. In support of this position, this thesis contains a detailed analysis of Aeschylus' Agamemnon exploring how the playwright creates the play's world in text and performance. The discussion's focus concentrates on how theatrical space (seen, implied, and diegetic) constructs the world of the play. Concomitant in this discussion is an analysis of how Aeschylus invites the audience to decode the play's theatricality through its knowledge of epic literature and its own non-theatrical spatial environments and practices. To facilitate this understanding, the text and performance are explored with reference to political, domestic and ritual space. In considering these productions, the assumption of theatre reviews that productions can be described as adhering to either modernising or archeologically inspired staging practices is challenged. It is argued that modern productions should be analysed with reference to directorial, translator, and actor intentions. Through a methodology based on interviewing theatre practitioners, the productions of Hall and Mitchell are seen to be irreducibly modern, yet still maintain a relationship with Aeschylus. Hall's use of ancient staging conventions is seen to be a modern interpretation of the theatrical past, which aimed at communicating the foreignness of Aeschylus. In contract, Mitchell's use of modern staging techniques made the Oresteia familiar to a modern audience, but, by suggesting political, domestic, and ritual equivalents, still articulated with the ancient performance.