This Restless House: Part 1

Zinnie Harris does Aeschylus proud in this stunning epic

A modern-day version of The Oresteia is a challenge for any playwright. Happily, writer Zinnie Harris' This Restless House reimagines the seminal ancient Greek trilogy with invention and dynamism, teaming up with the Citizen’s artistic director Dominic Hill in this two-part adaptation.

In the first instalment the sozzled Greek chorus, led by Cliff Burnett's louche outsider, beckons the audience into the titular house, where every nook and cranny contains a symbol of the fallen city of Troy. All seems infected with poison. It's an idea reinforced by composer Nikola Kodjabashia's portentous slashes of piano, to which some members of the cast adding drums, bass and backing vocals, whispered, screamed or crooned.

The traditionally villainous Clytemnestra (Pauline Knowles) is reconsidered as a more sympathetic character, battling drink problems and her capricious feelings for her husband Agamemnon (George Anton). Having sacrificed their child Iphigneia to the gods, he returns from a ten-year war as a hero in combat fatigues.

The push and pull of sexual desire is brilliantly rendered: Knowles and Anton are perfectly cast, bringing both chemistry and danger to their volatile relationship. This rotting, scabrous cabaret moves at a frantic clip, with much bawdy ironic humour from an excellent supporting cast providing a counterpoint to all the bloodshed.

Above all, Harris' deconstruction of patriarchal misrule pervades. In focusing on three strong female characters – the wise, enigmatic slave Cassandra (Itxaso Moreno) Clytemnestra and her self-possessed and equally alluring maid, Ianthe (Anita Vettesse) – this cocktail of sex and politics is heady and intoxicating.

Read our review of This Restless House: Parts 2 and 3

Citizens Theatre, Glasgow, until Sat 14 May.

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