Iphigenia in Aulis

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This weeks highlight was an amazing performance of Iphigenia in Aulis by the girls at Moreton Hall.

I have photographed many school performances, but never a Greek Tragedy.  There are no show tunes in Euripides - he is challenge to perform and to watch

The story, written by Euripides between 408 and 406BCE, is set in the Greek camp at Aulis as the Greeks prepare to sail to Troy.  Stranded on the beach without the necessary winds to put to sea, the prophet Calchas tells Agamemnon that in order to get the winds he needs he must sacrifice his eldest daughter to Artemis, the goddess of hunting, wild animals and the protector of young girls (Greek gods could be quite difficult at times). 

It foretells the animosity between Agamemnon and Achilles that opens the Illiad and sets the scene for the larger tragedy that involves Agamemnon's murder by his wife Clytemnestra after the end of the Trojan War. 

It's hard to be gripped by a performance when you are experiencing it through the camera lens, but in this case it was pretty easy.  Clytemnestra was absolutely stunning: the grovelling at Achilles feet as she pleads with him save her daughter was only surpassed by the venom she casts down on Agamemnon when it becomes clear her daughter is going to die.  When she implores Agamemnon not "to ransom a whore with a child's life" the hairs stand up on the back of your neck and you know this isn't going to end well.

I have a particular love of Greek Tragedy and the Trojan War, having written about them for my PhD. This leaves me in a good place to appreciate the play in way that the original audience would have.  Everyone in ancient Greece would have had an opinion on the slaughter of Iphigenia, on Agamemnon, and especially on the actions of Clytemnestra's sister, Helen.  Many would have seen Agamemnon as the hero and women were usually seen as the root of all evil.  Agamemnon's own murder by his wife was seen as shameful, while her murder by her son was seen as an honourable act of revenge.  But Euripides play can be interpreted in several ways depending on your own value judgments and your understanding of the whole story.  However, the fact that this play was not staged until after his death cannot be ignored when attempting a modern interpretation.  This really is a morality play with gods and mortals called to account.

The girls of Moreton Hall did a wonderful job of bringing the play in to the 21st century and I hope their audience understand how complex the play is and how difficult it is to perform coherently.  I hope they enjoy it as much as I did.


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