Sophocles’ Electra (2001)

Cambridge Arts Theatre
October 10-13, 2001

Directed by Jane Montgomery

Orestes: Tom Hiddleston

Electra: Marta Zlatic
Chrysothemis: Bridget Collins
Clytemnestra: Olga Tribulato
Aegisthus: Adam Cohen
Agamemnon: Michael Onslow
Young Electra: Bridget Spencer
Young Orestes: Jonathan Henry Blake
Chorus: Rachel Fentem, Lucy Fletcher,
               Rebecca Lowe, Rebecca Mills,
               Felicity Poulter, Judith Whiteley

Cambridge Greek Play

Sophocles' Electra

The Chorus moved like figures on a musical jewellery box – stilted, mechanical, hieratical movements, not in unison, but repeating the same moves in any one speech. They sang most of the lines, even when in dialogue with Electra. The effect was slightly eerie; they looked like mechanical dolls. The reversal of conventional placing of the Chorus in the Orchestra – by exiling them to the periphery – meant that the central playing circle became a claustrophobic space, watched, or guarded by, the observing Chorus.


Cambridge Greek Play

The History of the Cambridge Greek Play

by Vanessa Lacey, archivist to the Cambridge Greek Play Committee

The tradition of performing a Greek play in Cambridge goes back to 1882, when the very first production was of Sophocles’ tragedy Ajax. The two producers were not classicists in the strict sense: the first was John Willis Clark, superintendent of the Museum of Zoology who possessed a passionate interest in the theatre. The other was Charles Waldstein, a classical archaeologist.

From the first, the plays were intended to be effective drama as well as accurate reconstructions of the ancient Greek productions. The producers were inspired by the opportunity to stage the plays rather than to read them as texts, and to make a wider audience aware of the particular strengths of Greek tragedy and comedy. “Directness and vitality” was the ideal, according to Waldstein. Even in the nineteenth century it was accepted that most of the audience were not sufficiently fluent in Greek to follow the play, and a printed English translation was provided.

Ajax was a triumph and was followed by Aristophanes’ comedy Birds in the following year. The plays flourished during the nineteenth century amid the contemporary passion for all things classical, but their continuing success during the twentieth century depended on the ability of the producers to move with the times and incorporate new theatrical developments into the plays. That their success was indeed sustained was in part due to the combination of undergraduate ability with more established talent.

Undergraduate talent should not be dismissed. Some undergraduates who took part in the play later made theatre their career: for example James Mason on film and John Barton on stage for the Royal Shakespeare Company; more recently Tom Hiddleston(Orestes in Sophocles’ Electra, 2001) has gone on to a stellar career on stage and screen.

Cambridge Greek Play