Theatre Review – Elektra by Sophokles

By Ken Powell

Joanna Simpkins (Elektra). Photo by Keith Pattison.

Joanna Simpkins (Elektra). Photo by Keith Pattison.

Wow! Just wow. That’s my first and most enduring thought about the little gem which is Keswick’s Theatre by the Lake’s (TBTL) latest production in the intimate studio theatre. I was expecting something serious and intellectually demanding. I was not expecting to be blown away.

Regulars to TBTL’s studio performances know that plays selected are always ones which will challenge and illuminate the mind, whether they be dramas or comedies. Elektra, as a well-known Greek tragedy ought to have been one of the harder to digest, but Anne Carson’s translation was excellent keeping the sense of poetry and rhythm while avoiding pseudo-Shakespearean language. In short, she made it real.

And that’s what came across in this tale of murderous desire for revenge upon a father’s killer: the reality of the torment. Joanna Simpkins in the title role of Elektra was astounding in her passionate performance and is, for me, the star of the season so far. She was superb in The Vertical Hour but her vitality and sheer physical energy in Elektra left me quite literally breathless. She gave an electrifying portrayal of a young woman right on the very cusp of madness.

Space doesn’t allow to speak of the other cast members (and I’ve never seen so many in the studio before) but they all performed well with at least two cast members so completely transformed in character from their roles in Watch it, Sailor! that I didn’t even recognise them.

Another impressive aspect to the production was the sound and lighting effects. TBTL have really taxed the sound and lighting departments this season and the crew have met the challenge well. For Elektra the sound effects in particular were incredible so well done to Dan Steele and Maura Guthrie for their work here.

Of all the plays at TBTL this season this is the one I believed would be only for the aficionados, the specialists, who like Greek tragedies. I was wrong. Elektra is the hidden jewel which could be easily overlooked. I urge you not to miss it.

From L to R Rebecca Carrie (Chorus), Joanna Simpkins (Elektra), Heather Phoenix (Chorus), Maggie Magney (Chorus). Photo by Keith Pattison.

From L to R Rebecca Carrie (Chorus), Joanna Simpkins (Elektra), Heather Phoenix (Chorus), Maggie Magney (Chorus). Photo by Keith Pattison.

Elektra runs until Wednesday 2 November and tickets are available at www.theatrebythelake.com or at the box office (017687 74411)