Iphigenia in Tauris

Champs Mêlés’ production of Iphigenia in Tauris is a two hour, French language translation of J.W von Goethe’s 18th century adaptation of Euripides’ original Greek tragedy with the occasional English surtitle. So it’s somewhat niche.

Mainly for the hard-core Greek Tragedy enthusiasts or those with a particular interest in French-language theatre.

If you’re not a French speaker or you’re not already intimately familiar with Euripides’ original tragedy or the surrounding myths of the Oresteia and the Trojan War, you might find it a little bit difficult to follow. The English surtitles pop up on a small screen stage-left which is just far enough outside your peripheral vision to make you regularly switch between it and the actual action on stage. That is, when they appear at all. As noted, they are ‘occasional’, usually appearing for most key plot points but there are regular 5-10 minute sections without any translation at all.

This having been said, the show itself manages to be fairly compelling from beginning to end even with the potential language barrier. Elisabeth Duda gives a strong performance as Iphigenia, whilst Clement Hassid provides an interesting interpretation of Orestes’ ever-growing madness as the Furies continue to harass him. The physical and emotional skill of the entire cast is evident, and means that though you might not understand the words, you’re not completely lost at sea and large parts of the show are enjoyable.

However, the show is in drastic need of being shortened. Two uninterrupted hours of what is already a fairly obscure Greek Tragedy is too much, whatever your language. I happen to already be very familiar with the original tragedy as well as the surrounding mythology, but the average Fringe goer probably isn’t. The show does provide a glossary of terms and names to help you, but I imagine that’s it a tad difficult to refer to in the dark. This doesn’t mean that you can’t understand what’s going on, but that you might miss out on some of the subtleties.

So ultimately this show is recommendable, but mainly to those of a certain type. If it was an hour shorter and had more consistent, accurate subtitles, the show might appeal to a wider Fringe audience. For now, it’s mainly for the hard-core Greek Tragedy enthusiasts or those with a particular interest in French-language theatre.

Reviews by James Beagon

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The Blurb

By JW von Goethe. Iphigenia, Diana’s priestess, has to immolate all foreigners entering the country. Her kindness leads King Thoas to suspend this barbarian custom. With no inheritor, Thoas wishes to marry her and, as she refuses, re-establishes human sacrifices. Orestes and his friend Pylades arrive in Tauris. As foreigners, they are destined to be sacrificed by Iphigenia... This classical play of amazing modernity talks about highly topical subjects such as gender equality, rejection of foreigners and triumph of humanity over barbarism. Iannis Xenakis’s Musik gives a fascinating dimension to Simone Rist’s timeless original staging.