Bash, Chapter Arts Centre
Two latter day plays plucked from Neil LaBute’s triumvirate of revamped Greek myths, Iphigenia in Orem and Medea Redux signify the explosive debut of new theatre company ‘silence, darkness’. Two intertwining monologues explore the great themes of Greek tragedy, delving into the darkest recesses of the human psyche. The set is simple; two chairs opposite each other aside two small tables holding a glass and jug of water, each enclosed in a red house-shaped outline upon the floor. A single light bulb illuminates each speaker in turn, plunging the other into, yes, darkness and silence. The stripped back nature of the production allows all the focus to fall on the characters, amplifying the depths to which they expose their souls.
The two nameless characters consist of a man (Gwydion Rhys) and a woman (Stacey Daly). He is a posh city boy with a “limited chauvinistic lexicon”, full of clichés, bravado and self-justification, confessing his crime to a stranger in Iphigenia in Orem. She is a softly-spoken “inward type of person”, radiating fragility and a shattered innocence whilst revealing the tale of her relationship with her junior high school teacher in Medea Redux. Whilst the contents of their stories are undoubtedly shocking, the actual telling is done almost matter-of-factly, sharp bursts of emotion revealing the cracks buried beneath the carefully cultivated exteriors. As the tragedies of their lives unfold, a heavy sadness, laced with horror, settles over the room.
Although both the tales and characters differ greatly, similar themes weave their way through the tragedies. Humanity, or more aptly the loss of it, sits aside the question of fate and how much the lives of mortals are dictated by its often seemingly cruel hand. “All I could hear was the universe. The howl of the cosmos – laughing.” Events push their characters to extremes, both psychically and psychologically; Medea Redux follows the destructive path of all-consuming love and vengeance, whilst Iphigenia in Orem centres on choices, risks and possibilities, as well as the disastrous consequence of living in a highly materialistic society.
The beginning, middle and end of the monologues are framed by three Billie Holiday songs, ‘Lover Man’, ‘Stormy Weather’ and ‘God Bless the Child’, the music a perfect accompaniment to the tragedies unfurling. It is the only time the two characters acknowledge each other’s presence, stepping out of their respective cages and into each other’s arms. Their dancing says the remainder of what their words cannot, anguish emanating from them in the clasping of the other’s flesh, fingers digging deep into the skin, grasping at a salvation that they believe is beyond their reach. Two broken people left to the mercy of the Gods.