The Theatre Centre’s production of Blood Family leaves me torn between feelings of love and confusion. Co-produced by Philip McKee, Tanja Jacobs and The Theatre Centre, this abrupt piece of theatre is a strange adaptation of The Oresteia that tells two stories, leaving us with an impression of both the narrative and the plight of the individual.
Before the show opens, we enter what is soon to be the tomb of Queen Clytemnestra (Tanja Jacobs), who appears to be ironing what we later observe is a white sheet. The theatre itself is black box, and the seats are placed around the square stage, closely resembling a theatre-in-the-round vibe, capturing the tension that builds throughout the show. I stress tension only because much of the first half does not consist of very visceral performances as it does dead pan interactions between either Clytemnestra and Orestes (Ishan Davé) or Clytemnestra and Philip McKee.
Although tension is captured throughout much of the show’s first half, this tension derives from the lack of visceral emotion applied by actor Ishan Davé, during his interactions with his mother Clytemnestra, whom he is about to kill. In Ishan Davé’s defense, the emotionless acting technique is later addressed by McKee in the second half, justifying Orestes’ uncomfortable interaction with his mother. In response to this, the dead pan execution works in terms of humour, though on the other hand, it also creates for a very slow and uninteresting first half, leaving the play feeling slightly undercooked.
Davé’s performance alone, as internalized as his character may be, works much to the advantage of the performance as a whole. Displaying enough realism in a setting that demands theatrics and overdramatized performances most definitely forces us to rethink the purpose of the Greek Tragedy and what it means to murder your own mother.
The lighting scheme, although simplistic, proves to be particularly effective in helping to isolate the characters in certain corners of the stage. As Clytemnestra pours a bucket of red paint on the young Iphigenia (Norah Sadava), the light isolates her, forcing her into a bloody corner and creating an almost inescapable cell on the edge of the stage. This segment, in particular, displays some very interesting tableau work, creating a disturbing image of Iphigenia on her knees, covered in blood.
All in all, Phillip McKee and Tanja Jacobs offer a very interesting narrative that is unlike most adaptations we see of The Oresteia today. If you are looking for some new and interesting theatre, this is most definitely the show to attend.
Bloody Family is playing at The Theatre Centre until Oct. 5. For more information, visit http://theatrecentre.org/?p=3229.