Innovative Greek tragedy revisited

IPH... by Colin Teevan at Colchester Mercury until June 14.The three-letter title is short for Iphigeneia. It's the name of Agamemnon's daughter, his much adored first-born.

David Henshall

IPH... by Colin Teevan at Colchester Mercury until June 14.

The three-letter title is short for Iphigeneia. It's the name of Agamemnon's daughter, his much adored first-born. She's a teenager, pretty, innocent and, as the offspring of Spartan royalty, she should be able to look forward to a life of dutiful ease, love and marriage .

But this is Greek tragedy in which very few live happily ever after. Heads must roll. In this case Iphigeneia's because her dad has made a pact with the gods: her death in exchange for a fair wind to sweep the Greek fleet to Troy. That's where Paris has taken the beautiful Helen, wife of Agamemnon's brother, Menelaus.

They say she was kidnapped, mostly the men. The women think Helen went more than willingly, that she's a bit of a trollop who slipped into the handsome Paris's bed without a struggle and with a wide smile.

It really doesn't matter either way because Greek male pride has been trampled on and they are going to war no matter what. But, if they want a stiff breeze to float the fleet, the girl must die.

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Colin Teevan's bright, modern script and Sue Lefton's vivid, sparkling direction, bring the tale right up to date. Menelaus and Agamemnon bestride the stage in flak jackets, camouflage trousers and desert boots. His wife Clytemnestra teeters on hight heels and in a long gown split to the thigh while Iphigeneia's mini-dress barely covers her bottom.

And the Greek chorus might raise a few eyebrows in Athens: pretty girls in shorts or skimpy shifts who dance and sing with mostly one thing on their minds - men. They're a lewd crew who simulate sex and can't wait to get at it. But, sadly for them, all the fellas will soon be setting sail and love may be something they will never taste.

The girl gang offers a sharp, scintillating, provocative, offbeat counterpoint from the extremely well-acted heartbreak of the story that unfolds as certainly as night follows day. Ignatius Anthony's Agamemnon is wrung with remorse and anger but ultimately determined and there are strong performances from Christopher Hunter and Michael Thomson as Menelaus and Achilles.

Nadia Morgan gives Iphigeneia a nice childlike quality that changes splendidly into Joan of Arc later when she glories in the idea of dying for her country. But Shuna Snow's Clytemnestra is the one who rakes our hearts and souls as she pleads and threatens in an attempt to save her daughter's life.

Hell hath no fury like this woman scorned. If you go through with this, she tells Agamemnon, no matter how long it takes I will have my revenge. He should have listened, as her final blood-dripping appearance satisfyingly lets us know.

David Henshall

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