Greek tragedy is electrifying audiences in St Albans

Company of Ten's production of Electra. Picture: Nick Clarke / Abbey Theatre.

Company of Ten's production of Electra. Picture: Nick Clarke / Abbey Theatre. - Credit: Archant

Madeleine Burton reviews Company of Ten’s production of Electra at the Abbey Theatre Studio in St Albans.

An electrifying production of Electra in the Abbey Theatre Studio is introducing a whole new audience to the power of ancient Greek tragedy.

The Company of Ten does not shirk from putting on Greek drama – there have been several over the years – and the one thing that links them all is how good they have been.

And this production of the Sophocles tragedy is no exception, played out as it is on the barest of sets.

But it is so compelling, in the hands of director Roger Scales, that it does not need embellishments to bring to life its two main themes – revenge and retribution.

It is these two bedfellows that have ensured plays like Electra are still worth performing – and seeing – thousands of years after they were written.

The power of the Company of Ten version is due in no small measure to Deborah Cole in the role of Electra.

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The daughter of Agamemnon, the leader of the Greeks in the Trojan War, she has witnessed her father being murdered by her mother and her lover and is desperate to be revenged.

Deborah has the most expressive face I have seen on the stage for a long time and she wrings the pathos out of the lines.

She captures the combined horror and frustration of a woman who feels powerless in the face of what she sees as evil – in stark opposition of her mother Clytemnestra who insists her husband had to die for sacrificing another daughter to the Gods so the Trojan War could go ahead.

Ian Rowe – who, if my memory serves me well, took the role of Dionysus in a brilliant production of Euripedes’ play The Bacchae in the Studio some years ago – imbues Electra’s long-lost brother Orestes with the same passion as Deborah’s Electra.

Together, and with support from the likes of Jo Emery as Chrysothemis, Shelley Bacall as Clytemnestra and Joel Corless as Pylades, they give towering performances in a moving and even today, a remarkably relevant production.

• Electra runs at the Abbey Theatre Studio until this Saturday, November 17.

Tickets can be obtained from the box office on 01727 857861 or go to