The Furies: why Aeschylus’ classic is still powerful

The cast in rehearsals for 'The Furies'.
The cast in rehearsals for ‘The Furies’.

 talks to the production team and cast of Ethrael Theatre’s revival of ‘The Furies’. 

Ethrael Theatre have chosen to take their production of The Furies this year to the Edinburgh fringe. They first staged The Furies in Durham back in 2013. Leo Mylonadis, its director, explains why they chose to take The Furies as their offering for the fringe. “We knew we wanted to go to the fringe this summer and after a chat with Hector MacPherson Brown, who advised us to take something we knew well and that we had enjoyed working on, we decided on The Furies.”

Despite its previous success, this revival will still come with many notable differences, including many new additions to the cast. The furies themselves have been completely replaced, with Clara Duncan, Jess Hof and now playing the eponymous roles. Mylonadis explains that “the music has been arranged to suit the new cast” as well.

“It’s relevant just as a Greek tragedy: the dramatic form is something that we don’t see often.”

Another notable difference is certainly its location. It was originally performed in the Norman Chapel, Durham’s oldest surviving building dating back to 1080. The Norman Chapel is a perfect location for a Greek tragedy, but its uniqueness means finding a good alternative elsewhere isn’t always easy. Lauren Hitchman, producer for The Furies, insists that finding a suitable venue wasn’t actually challenging. The fringe “has an incredible versatility of space which meant that finding a venue was easy.”

Much of the charm of many fringe productions comes from their obvious relevance to contemporary life. Hitchman makes a very interesting point about why it doesn’t matter whether The Furies is particularly relevant for ‘today’. “I don’t think the point is for it to be particularly relevant: its divergence from our own attitudes and beliefs is where a lot of its power as theatre comes from.” Mylonadis concurs: “it’s relevant just as a Greek tragedy: the dramatic form is something that we don’t see often.” He adds, “it’s a really archaic look at different forms of justice and its relationship with vengeance, and whether vengeance itself constitutes justice, or whether there has to be another construct. It’s also important historically due to the transition from Chthonic deities to Olympian deities.”

Clockwise: Jess Hof, Carrie Gaunt and Clara Duncan, who are playing the the furies, in rehearsals for 'The Furies'.
Clockwise: Jess Hof, and Clara Duncan, who are playing the the furies, in rehearsals for ‘The Furies’.

Mylonadis was particularly attracted to The Furies because of its Chorus. “It’s a really interesting Chorus in comparison to other Greek tragedies. They change half way through from Furies to Athenians, which shows their narrative power, I think, so that was interesting to explore.” As the first Greek tragedy Mylonadis had directed, he was also particularly keen on doing it with music and dance. “I prefer to work with a variety of media and forms of performance, not just theatre, and I get a lot of joy seeing dance, music and acting come together in a play. It’s challenging for the casts, definitely, but I like to push them to see what they can do.”

Mylonadis’ innovative approach to his direction clearly pays off, even if it is challenging for the cast. Jess Hof, playing a fury, is particularly receptive to his direction. “He’s great – having worked with him before I know he loves to dissect characters with the actors and is not afraid of big, dramatic themes or personalities.” It’s Mylonadis’ innovative approach to a classical form which makes this production of The Furies so special, and he hopes it will prove a success at fringe. “It hopefully engages you with a style of drama that I don’t believe has been properly represented in theatre for a long time, and I think Fringe-goers will appreciate that.”

This is hopefully not Ethrael Theatre’s last endeavour however. Mylonadis is very keen to pursue directing as a career, so Ethrael Theatre is currently moving to London with Mylonadis for now. “I have some people who are closely involved with it and we are going to have some strategizing to do so watch this space.”

The Furies‘ is on until 31 August, at C nova (Venue 145), Edinburgh. 

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