Tuesday 18 October 2011

A domestic fantasia

Something About You (makes me want to hurt you), Asylum Chapel, London

Elektra, with all its grand, sweeping passions that seem to have knotted the intestines of its characters, with its epic sweep of royalty and revenge, with its frisson of incest, is boiled down to a domestic fantasia in this devised piece by Dirty Market Theatre. The result is like sub-par Caryl Churchill.

I say ‘boiled down’, but the process is closer to dilution. Despite running at ninety minutes, Something About You… feels flabby. Its swirl of images, scattered over the vast, crumbling Asylum Chapel, has prosaic, non-literal dances sidle up to over-written snapshots of suburban psychosis, but lacks the potential energy of a coiled spring. Where there ought to be burning inevitability, magnesium-bright, there is only a banal blancmange of self-pity and sobbing. It dearly needs an adrenaline shot.

Elektra herself becomes Egg (Francesca Dale), a depressed, agoraphobic woman whose sap of a husband sleeps in the car outside and pushes cuddly toys through her letter-box. Her brother Orestes – sorry, Dave (Tom Harris) – looks like he’s just returned from a gap year, while their mother, played by a bouffant Benedict Hopper in a pink skirt and kitten heels, has stepped out of the 1960s.

The aim is to marry expressionism with a modern ‘neurotic middle-classes’ slant on the original myth, but, for all that I admire the ambition of Georgina Sowerby and Jon Lee’s production, the two sides neither sit comfortably together nor work on their own terms. There’s a strong, dreamy atmosphere, but everything – text, acting and movement – remains approximate; a fact testified by an over-reliance on the word ‘fuck’ to stand in for anything more specific or meaningful.

Beneath all this is the fatal problem of an adaptation that dresses the original in fancy postmodernism (‘Weep. Change your sex. Ask questions to which the answer is Elektra’) without ever really adding to it. Rather than excavating Elektra’s story, getting beneath its skin to tear its guts apart, Something About You… functions only in relation to it, as a redundant translation of a vastly superior play.

Till 19 October 2011

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