Bakehouse Theatre
Until 09 Jun 2018

Review by Anthony Vawser

By his own admission, Sean Riley, the playwright behind “This Bloody House”, does not like Classical Greek drama. His show is a short, sharp, immediate, passionate blast of colourful family dysfunction, grimly funny absurdism, and genuinely emotional dramatics. If it could fairly be described as irreverent to the text that it reimagines (Aeschylus’ “The Oresteia”), Riley’s vision (executed by director Connor Reidy) is most certainly respectful to its spirit.

“This Bloody House” is an arresting presentation from the moment one enters the theatre. A combination of dancing and standing performers, prone bodies and those dramatically lit behind plastic sheeting, boldly colourful costumes and waves of white paint across the stage…and all of it is accompanied/enhanced by the familiar, looped strains of Iggy Pop’s “Lust for Life”.

What proceeds for the following hour can truly be called an entertainment – and like many of the best entertainments, it won’t necessarily be everybody’s cup of tea. The ‘b-word’ in the title of this show, it gradually becomes clear, is meant in a literal sense – though the violence itself is rendered in a creatively stylistic fashion that does well to communicate its impact.

Once past the opening scene or two, the pacing really picks up and doesn’t flag. The chorus of ‘furies’ (enacted by Lily Wilkins, Connor Pullinger, and Jack Chaplin) wield their cheeky, cynical comments with enthusiasm and wit. Though on occasion, the contemporary references/attitudes don’t really jibe with the mood/tone of the show in a given moment, overall the effect is successfully cutting as well as stimulating.

Other cast members who leave standout positive impressions include Arjuna Ganesan, appearing to relish playing Aegisthus as an Aussie bogan, and Jasmin McWatters, impressively understated and nuanced in the role of Leda. With a face as mournful and scornful as it is youthful, Penelope Skordos makes Electra a memorably haunted and chilling characterisation.

Kim Liotta’s costume/set designs (in conjunction with the writer & director) are sensationally good, a pleasure for the eyes to drink in. While scene changes/transitions don’t always feel ideally/precisely timed with the action, the majority of Alex Hatchard’s lighting and Simon Possingham’s ‘drum chaos’ works very effectively.

By reaching for imaginative contemporary contexts in which to place the themes and characters of Classical Greek drama, Reidy and Riley have rendered these tales of human/cosmic tragedy – almost as old as civilisation itself – in terms that will keep such storytelling alive and vital for today’s young artists (and audiences) who are looking to be inspired by theatre that is electric and exciting.