first night

The Furies

David Knowles writes a furious review of DUCT's production of 'The Furies'


The Norman Chapel poses serious problems for every production that decides to use it.  Lines of sight, acoustics and lighting are just some of the challenges that a company must deal with. Getting these wrong, however, is not necessarily the end of the world as long as the play itself is of an excellent standard. Unfortunately, DUCT’s ‘The Furies’ fails on both counts, not for a lack of energy but through directorial, theatrical and technical bluntness.

It seems only fair to start with the most obvious problems. The arrangement of the audience seriously cramped the stage and restricted the viewing for many. The lighting felt wrong as the production used sharp LEDs, which were not bright enough to illuminate the actors’ faces. However, unfortunately they were strong enough to distract the audience by shining harshly behind the action, which in turn stripped away the natural shadows of the chapel.

The cast, for all their frenzied energy, also fatally misjudged the difficult and deceptive acoustics of the space. Too many lines were lost amongst the gnashing and hissing of the furies and other lines were delivered so loudly that they became unintelligible due to a lack of diction.

Considering the problems the Norman Chapel imposes on any production, it seems right to question the decision to stage ‘The Furies’ there at all. Nothing about the production hung together with the space – the costumes, the music, the lighting, none of them fitted with the chapel or, it must be said, with each other. It is a fatal trap to think that just by setting an older play in the Norman Chapel it will immediately be an ‘evocative’ and ‘atmospheric’ piece, nevertheless, it is a trap this production fell into.

The actors ranged in ability from the promising Athena (Sian Green), whose measured tone injected some much needed nuance and subtly into the play; to the downright unimpressive Apollo (Chris Yeates) who never convinced as the God.

The Furies themselves (Idgie Beau, Philippa Mosley and Georgina Franklin) were hampered by unimaginative direction and a fundamentally flawed theatrical vision. Ticking every box in the clichéd classical theatre chart (messed up hair, gnashing of teeth, hissing, animal like noises when other people are talking etc.). This meant that none of their performances came close to evoking or exploring anything particularly terrifying or interesting about their roles.

Music composed by Ben Williams was interspersed throughout the play and was performed by the talented Isaac Lusher and the chorus. Regrettably, the melodies evoked Danny Elfman more than ancient Greek ritual and frequently the cast went off key.

Greek tragedy is difficult. Difficult to perform, difficult to interpret and difficult to watch. Sadly this excuses no one for getting it wrong. As full of explosive energy the cast might have been it was essentially nothing but noise ‘full of sound and fury. Signifying nothing.’ ‘The Furies’ should serve as a grim warning for any company that wishes to use the Norman Chapel in the future.

10 November 2013

The views expressed in the reviews and comments on this page are those of the reviewer, and are not representative of the views of DST or Durham University.
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