Radio Review: The Oresteia – Agamemnon / The Brick

“Things…have consequences”

Our enduring fascination with the Greek tragedies continues with this three-part adaptation of Aeschylus’ Oresteia which sees three writers create contemporary reworkings for radio, starting with Simon Scardifield’s take on Agamemnon. It’s a cracking version, featuring a brilliantly conceived three person Chorus who merge almost seamlessly into the narrative – they pass comment and provide rich detail as per usual, but feeling so much a part of the fabric of this version of Argos makes their storytelling truly integral to the work.

Elsewhere, the story follows the familiar laugh-a-minute path of Aeschylus. After taking a decade to conquer Troy, Agamemnon (Hugo Speer) returns victorious to Argos with a new concubine the prophetess Cassandra (the mellifluous Anamaria Marinca) in tow. But far from happy to see him, his wife Clytemnestra (a calculatedly fierce Lesley Sharp) has long been plotting revenge on him as he sacrificed their eldest daughter Iphigenia on divine orders. It is bloody, brutal stuff and little is spared in this effective retelling. 

The Brick is British/Palestinian writer Selma Dabbagh’s first radio play, and a powerfully evocative one at that. Following a young woman, a beautiful performance from Sirine Saba as Rasha, who has to make a trip into Jerusalem to run some errands for her mother. But the journey is made more complicated by her need to carry out a secret mission vital for her sense of identity. For as a Palestinian, her family home no longer belongs to her and she wants, needs, something from it; and as a Palestinian, her very presence in the city is fraught with risk and danger, and through road blocks, accidents, checkpoints and random tourists, something important is achieved. 

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