The day Argos came to the Abhimanch

Theatre talk

A pleasant February evening proved the apt setting for Monamas, a London-based Theatre Company founded by Greek stage actor Chrysanthi Avloniti.

Monamas staged a reconstructed, minimalistic rendition of Agamemnon, by Aeschylus at the Abhimanch auditorium of the National School of Drama.Part of the ongoing Bharat Rang Mahotsav that began on the first day of this month and will continue until February 18, Agamemnon is the first title in a trilogy of tragedies written by Aeschylus which each have an independent plot but share a prevalent theme as the storyline flows like the river Styx from one play to the next.

 Agamemnon begins with a chorus that casts a shroud of impending doom over the audience who from there on followed the action, which begins right after the fall of Troy and King Agamemnon’s capture of Cassandra, the beautiful daughter of fallen King Priam, who is also a bedlamite, to Argos as his concubine.

His wife, Clytemnestra, who has waited with a bated breath for almost a decade for her husband to return from war with a mask of utmost loyalty, when in reality she has been plotting his murder in order to avenge the death of their daughter, whom Agamemnon sacrificed before setting out for Troy, in return for good fortune.

This desire for vengeance grows even more by the fact that in the absence of her king, Clytemnestra has gone into an adulterous relationship with Aegisthus, who has his own score to settle with the ruler of Argos.

Aegisthus uses Agamemnon’s wife to lure him into the trap he set, to avenge the death of Aegisthus’ brother. Clytemnestra’s conviction to carry out her plan becomes even more concrete when she sees Cassandra and before the day of her king’s return is over, she murders them both before declaring Aegisthus and herself as the rulers of Argos.

The experimental approach adopted by the cast comprising Chrysanthi Avloniti, Sotris Bakolas and Anna Kritikou was a truly commendable effort. Without any props, apart from a simple roll of crimson toilet tissue acting as the carpet of sacred peplos garment that Agamemnon walks on, Avloniti has left it all to the imagination of the audience for this
particular performance.

The real brilliance lay in the impeccable timing and precision in the delivery between the three people on stage doing multiple roles. Which is even more noteworthy considering the fact that the play is Greek and so is the cast, yet for want of the performance, the piece is a translation from the original into English, which was a monumental task, Avloniti later admitted.

“It was a real challenge to attempt something as big as this in a language that is not our mother tongue. The original is a poem in Greek and as a result, it has a different rhythm or musicality, call it what you will. To encompass the same feeling was one of the hardest tasks for us but then we live for such challenges,” said a beaming Avloniti in the green room after the performance.

“Who knows, maybe someday we might even try to translate a Hindi script and see where it takes us but we will have to learn the language first” she added with a chuckle.

The stage used a black cyclorama as opposed to a conventional white one and the operation of lights in an immaculate fashion. Overall, it was a different experience and one can only hope that they go onwards and upwards.

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