‘Tis the witching hour. The crowd file in at midnight for a heavy metal band pumping with the rage of the Greeks. In Aeschylus’s Oresteia, the matriarch of the House of Atreus, Clytemnestra, is murdered by her son Orestes. The matricide is of such injustice to summon the Furies, goddesses of vengeance, cast here as three arch songstresses in KILN Theatre’s production.
It begins with the airs of a gig, a smoky room with an impressively large sound coming from the two-piece band: Phil Ward swapping between guitar and bass; Russell Collins playing drums with one hand and keyboards with the other. The Furies enter one-by-one from the back of the room.
The diverse vocal styles offer different textures. Sam Fox’s operatic voice ushers in great beauty but also sorrow. Aeschylus’s drama may have entered ‘tragedy’ into a theatrical system, but so too might ‘love’ and ‘heartbreak’ have been seminal. Fox’s control is mesmeric, singing a note at one point that melts effortlessly into the brass howls of Ward’s saxophone.
Gina Biggs with her pop-singer stylings has the poise of a gal pal, assisting her friend in one scene by finding a rebound-guy in the audience. These may be Greek goddesses but you wouldn’t be surprised if they grabbed hold and snogged you on the dance floor. By contrast, the black-feathered Olivia Winteringham has the raw voice of a rocker, waging war in her combustible turn.
Under Graeme Rose’s direction the performers wade through the dense crowd, sometimes climbing onto raised platforms where their bodies almost seem to command the music. They’re assisted by Ben Pacey’s excellent lighting, which guides the action as well as capturing the three Furies in stunning and otherworldly illuminations.
You might not hear all the lyrics or pick up every detail of the plot but there’s a sense that you don’t have to. What comes through is the power of the music, reverberations of an ancient call for revenge.
The Furies runs at Summerhall (venue 26) until 28 Aug. For more information and tickets, see the Summerhall Festival website.