[author-post-rating] (4/5 Stars)
Rarely at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival will you experience a piece of ‘total theatre’: a piece that manages to transport the audience totally into its world. Restrictions on budgets and staging, and the general throng of shows within a performance space, tend to make this impossible. Jethro Compton, however, brings a trilogy of plays to the Fringe, and has taken over a space within C Nova, turning this studio into a totally immersive space.
We’re thrown into a World War I bunker. The floor is muddied and sandbags flank one wall, whilst wooden supports hold up the ground around us. We sit on benches around the outside. Bombs explode above us, and in the dark and dank bunker we witness Agamemnon, in a new version by Jamie Wilkes, under the direction of Compton himself. The transposing of ancient Greece to World War I trenches takes some adjustment, and feels at times as if we’re not watching a Greek tragedy at all. Cnce the powers that be that propel Clytemnestra (the excellent Serena Manteghi), the mournful and revenge-driven wife, the connections are clear and electric. Playing Agamemnon is the wonderfully rich James Marlowe who swings between loveable charming English-gent to a wounded captain, pleading for the pain to take him back to his home. It’s not all tragedy, though, as much-needed comedy is found within Dan Wood’s excellent Aegisthus who looks after Clytemnestra – eventually plots the murder of her husband with her.
Compton, who directs, designs and produces the show is clearly drawing off his wealth of experience with Belt Up Theatre, of which he was a part of for several years. He really brings this story to life. There is no escaping the dimly lit bunker, and the atmosphere that crackles from the actors as they spiral into the darkness of war and affairs. Manteghi is a particularly engrossing watch as Clytemnestra, she dazzles as the innocent woman being wooed into marriage, before turning into a menacing revengeful wife. There’s a richness in the acting which can be found in few such young and emerging companies.
This is what sets Agamemnon above other work playing at the Fringe: there’s a totality and a richness that is professional and tangibly real. With limited audiences, and sitting within the stage design, it only takes the superb direction from Compton to push this piece into tremendously impressive territory. If Agamemnon is anything to go by, then the rest of The Bunker Trilogy will certainly be worth a look, and judging by discussions in the queue last night word is spreading of Compton’s theatrical magic; book now to avoid disappointment.
The Bunker Trilogy is playing at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival until 26th August. For more information and tickets, see The Bunker Trilogy website.