Review of ‘Electra’ and ‘The Electra Project’ by the King’s School Ely on Wednesday 9th March 2016 in the Hayward Theatre

The King’s School Ely has a reputation for producing plays that are well worth seeing and ‘Electra’ and ‘The Electra Project’ were no exception. Presenting two different plays with this connecting theme was an ingenious idea and it worked perfectly. The contrast between the two items was very effective and each presentation was of a considerably high standard.

‘Electra’ by Sophocles, an ancient Greek born 496 BC, contained all the emotional twists of motivation and family tension relevant today, although in this play it is extended, in the ancient Greek tradition, to include rather gory matricide.  This version by Frank McGuinness included many statements of wisdom such as ‘the dead do not mourn’ and the young students that spoke the lines clearly and emotively, transfixed the audience with the heightened  drama that made us think of the nature of forgiveness, revenge, and justice. The cast was particularly strong including the credible commenting chorus. Especially strong and dominant were the main characters: Electra (played by Paige Collier), Orestes (Freddy Flack), Clytemnestra (Roseanna Mackenzie), Aegisthus (Chris Robe) and servant (Jacob Gamble). The music was as effective as it was eclectic – that is, excellent and entirely in keeping.

After interval we left the tension of Electra to be highly entertained by the efforts of a supposed group of A level students trying to stage an updated version of this play with dire consequences that kept the audience laughing – even the Headmistress of the school was seen to be laughing at the Headmaster on stage suffering from humiliation by these unruly students. The script by Dave Jackson, written after two drama teachers were sacked for allowing their students to present play based on a father’s abuse of his daughter, was highly engaging and it explored current problems of adolescents coping with the tensions created by their varied personalities and talents as they came to terms with their lives and with the looming examination. This clever script also explored the flaws of our education system, the difficulties schools have with eccentric staff and the stringent constraints of the school and the curriculum and with the disastrous effects of interfering, pushy mothers. This cast was also strong and believable. Supported by a credible ‘chorus’, the characters included ‘director’ Alfie (Alex Layfield), Ellie (Eloise George), Malachi (JP Gilbey), Martin (Maark Spofforth), Elaine (Rosie Johnson), Ms Pew (Theo Taylor), Mark (Laurence Carolan) and Kane (Ethan Morley).

Laura Dixon, Nick Huntingdon, Peter North and the large crew are to be congratulated for such an impressive and entertaining evening.

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