The accomplished Progress Youth Theatre are presenting their bold interpretation of the ancient Greek canon The Oresteia (ingeniously adapted and delicately directed by Rhys Lawton). Its themes of justice and gender equality still resonate today.

We are drawn in by the moody silhouette of the Watchman, blue lit (atmospheric lighting by Katie Baxter) into the strife-torn kingdom of Argos. Rosy fingered dawn heralds the arrival of the stomping, sardonic Chorus… and the return of Agamemnon (a swaggeringly persuasive performance from Jack Hygate) freshly victorious from the Trojan Wars, dragging his conquest Cassandra (a touching performance by the charming Jude Lancaster).

His wife Clytemnestra (a chillingly contained portrayal by Cora Jamieson) appears composed, but is consumed by an unbearable grief that erupts in the vengeful and bloody murder of her husband. The moralising Chorus shrilly denounce her; she consorts with Aegisthus (obsequiously played by Alex McDonald) to the soundscape of sinister strings (menacing sound design by Lawrence Bird). In true Lady Macbeth mode, she declares she has had a ‘big day’!

The Chorus march on to the strains of the Queen anthem, ‘We Will Rock You’, stepping in time to their heartbeat, and Orestes (powerfully played by the charismatic Max Hijmering) is re-united with his sister Electra (a simmeringly resentful portrayal by Ellen Blackburn) at their father’s graveside. The sombre mood is lifted by Cilissa, handmaid and mistress of the metaphor (a delightfully sardonic performance by Isabella MacDonald). But the bloody cycle of death and retribution continues remorselessly; children, it seems, are no better than their parents…

In the solemn courtroom, the glowing Athena and golden Apollo officiate at the trial of Orestes, aided and abetted by those ‘ghastly beasts’, the black-hooded Furies. We, the audience, are left to decide… should the perpetrator be pardoned… or punished?

The superbly talented young cast have brought both light and shade to this darkly tragic tale; its topical themes are thought teasing… do try to catch it!

The Oresteia runs at the Progress Theatre, The Mount, Reading RG1 5HL until Saturday 8 December. Tickets can be bought online, by telephone via 0118 384 2169 or at the door.

  1. Progress Youth Theatre
  2. Progress Theatre – website & Facebook
  3. The Oresteia at the Progress Theatre
  4. The Oresteia by Aeschylus – Reading Library