A former National Poet of Wales, Gwyneth Lewis has also made a name for herself as a librettist and writer of factual prose. Clytemnestra is her first theatre play. As with her recent novel The Meat Tree, a retelling of the story of Blodeuwedd from the Mabinogion, Lewis has once again re-imagined an old text in the near future; reflecting her interest in the contemporary parallels of myths and legends.
For Clytemnestra, her makeover of Aeschylus’s fifth century BCE Greek trilogy The Oresteia, Lewis has set the story at a time when oil has run out and the world fights for food. Agamemnon is fighting a food war, and sacrifices his daughter to save his people. In his absence, Clytemnestra unravels with the grief and fury of a mother betrayed. The only character not to have her death avenged in the classic Greek version, here Lewis gives the grieving yet difficult protagonist her day in court.
Taking on such a well known Greek trilogy is a brave move for a first foray into a new medium, and one that took Lewis three and a half years to finish. In 1998 Ted Hughes wrote a new translation of the trilogy for Faber and Faber to much critical acclaim. Lewis is not a scholar, hence her decision to re-imagine rather than translate. However, in attempting to write her version simplistically enough for her young grandchildren to be able to understand it she has distilled too much of the story’s core essence for it to pack the punch it should, and neither the cast nor set shine brightly enough to overcome this.
Sherman Cymru, Cardiff, April 20-May 5
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Production information can change over the run of the show.