Elektra/Orestes, by Jada Alberts and Anne-Louise Sarks |Directed by Anne-Louise Sarks

Belvoir | Belvoir Upstairs, Surry Hills, Sydney | Until 26 April

Elektra/Orestes, by Jada Alberts and Anne-Louise Sarks, is a reworking of the Greek tragedy by Sophocles. The backstory to the drama begins when Agamemnon, husband of Klytemnestra (Linda Cropper), sacrifices their daughter — as commanded by the Greek gods. In return Klytemnestra conspires to kill the father of their remaining children — Elektra (Katherine Tonkin), Orestes (Hunter Page-Lochard) and Khrysothemis (Ursula Mills).

This contemporary drama is located in a first-world apartment. It is morning, a young woman is awakening and she is not happy. This is Elektra, who can neither forgive nor forget the past actions of her mother. Furthermore, the situation is certainly not helped by the presence of her mother’s lover, Aegisthus (Ben Winspear), who is also in the house.

Ralph Myers’ impressive and functional set design furthers the updating of the drama succinctly. It is a set that most audiences would identify with and into this symmetrical, functional and ordered living space enters Elektra, playing her sounds at full volume.

 Katherine Tonkin’s portrayal of Elektra convincingly delivers the full force of emotional intensity commensurate with the pain and rage she is feeling. She epitomises the angry, vehement teenager as she prowls the space, untamed, unkempt and striving to ensure that everyone knows that she is annoyed and that she will not forgive the sins of her parents.

Her sister, Khrysothemis, ostensibly strives to reconcile the strife and Ursula Mills in the role plays the sympathetic sibling with subtlety and convincing sincerity. Meanwhile, Linda Cropper, as Elektra’s mother, battles it out in numerous rounds that form the grudge fight between her and her deeply disturbed daughter.

All this angst is played out in rapid time and Ralph Myers’ impressive revolving stage then exposes the kitchen behind the living room where the drama is repeated. However, we are now privy to the developing action behind the facade.

Here, the youthful Orestes, the long-absent son and brother has returned, not so much as the avenging warrior but instead as the adolescent son trying to fit in. Hunter Page-Lochard’s boyish looks and understated performance convince us that he is a boy/man ‘more sinned against than sinning’. He is a mere player in a conflict between matriarchy and patriarchy, where everyone appears emotionally disabled and in psychological pain.

Alberts and Sarks have comprehensively taken the classic Greek drama and transferred it into the classic kitchen-sink drama and as a result have created a contemporary piece of theatre which focuses on the most dysfunctional family imaginable. This is not a revenge tragedy but more an examination of the psychological states of a family fragmented by misery, fury and guilt. Worth a look.

Hunter Page-Lochard and Linda Cropper. All images: Lisa Tomasetti.

Hunter Page-Lochard and Ben Winspear.

Katherine Tonkin and Ursula Mills.