The Rose Playhouse presents Iphigenia in Tauris - Theatre Review

The Rose Playhouse presents Iphigenia in Tauris - Theatre Review

The Rose Playhouse on Bankside and Iphigenia in Tauris by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, in a translation by Roy Pascal, made 50 years ago but fully staged here for the first time, are a great fit for one another indeed!

The play is the German writer's take on the story of Iphigenia (Suzanne Marie), one of the children of the Greek King Agamemnon. Iphigenia lives in exile in Tauris and serves as a priestess in the temple of Diana. In her time there she has managed to convince King Thoas (James Barnes) to stop sacrificing stranded strangers on the altar. However, after finding out from is confidant Arkas (Alec Bennie) that Thoas now wishes to marry her, Iphigenia turns him down putting their agreement at risk. Two strangers arrive on the island and turn out to be her brother Orestes (Ben Hale) and his friend Pylades (Andrew Stafford-Baker). Iphigenia is confronted with having to choose between betraying Thoas and being reunited with her family, marrying Thoas against her desire or trying the seemingly impossible of finding a peaceful solution to it all.

Written during the Weimar Classicism the piece stands out, from the original Greek tragedy and other adaptations, through its idealism and ending as well as the removal of the chorus, which makes Iphigenia the only female character. Her strong female voice stands alone in a world where she is literally ruled and surrounded by men. Originally written in German, the production’s dramaturge Annegret Märten notes that Pascal in his translation opted for a less strict metre. Through this his translation has achieved a lot of clarity in its language, making it very accessible even for contemporary audiences who may not be familiar with the play.

The Rose Playhouse is an indoor archaeological site featuring a viewing platform, where the seating and a main stage area are located; as well as a vast space beyond that filled with water and sand, where red rope lights indicate the archaeology of the historic theatre below. Director Pamela Schermann has not only achieved great clarity in her storytelling but also uses the unusual theatre space to its best advantage. From the start, the play’s world is not just created on the platform right in front of us but continues and lives on in the entire vast space of the historical playhouse.

Set and costume design by Gillian Steventon successfully demonstrate how less can be more. There is no set on the platform right in front of us, but instead the only set is the holy altar, far in the distance, unreachable for us, though omnipresent throughout the play. It becomes a reminder of Iphigenia’s position as a priestess and her duties. The performance is completed through further strong design elements by lighting designer Petr Vocka, especially with the use of the entire vast space of the theatre; as well as the compositions and sound design by Philip Matejtschuk, also featuring some short but haunting singing performances by the actors, echoing through the space. The small cast all deliver solid performances, though especially strong are Marie as Iphigenia and Barnes as King Thoa.

This production of Iphigenia in Tauris is a rarely seen gem in many, many ways and definitely one to check out whilst you still can!

© 2015 Tessa Hart

Iphigenia in Tauris runs at The Rose Playhouse on Bankside until 4th July 2015 (No Monday Performances)

All Performances at 7.30 pm (Except Sundays at 3.00 pm Only) - Running Time: 90 minutes (no interval)

Author's review: