Written in 1943, Jean Paul-Sartre’s The Flies adapts the Greek Myth of Orestes and his lost sister Electra as they seek to avenge their unjustly murdered father Agamemnon. Playing at The Bunker, a trendy underground theatre that opened in 2016, this production of the revenge tragedy is just simply tragic.
Sartre’s modern retelling of the myth incorporates philosophical existentialism, where literal flies, here represented by unnecessarily obscenely dressed cast members, become a centrepiece for attracting fear and repentance in aid of the God Jupiter’s reign of terror. Raul Fernandes as Jupiter just about manages to present the ungodly God with grandeur, regardless of his ridiculous furies’ (the flies) awkward obsession with their master. Initially used to demonstrate rebellion against Nazi occupation in France, Director David Furlong has brought it back in a retaliation against Brexit, because that’s trendy these days, right? However, he fails to capture any vigour which may have previously made this increasingly dull play at least a little bit entertaining.
The set is an obvious attempt at modernisation, with broken bits of technology, phones, and pointless projection thrown about the stage. The spacious theatre becomes instantly cluttered, with the actors even further damaging the set as they manoeuvre a wheelchair across stage. Furlong believes The Flies to raise discussion of representation in theatre, and yet his depiction of disability becomes a problem to be fixed as the actor in question is able to walk out of his chair as he again discovers joy in this dystopian city, a problematic if not distasteful attempt at diversification on stage.
There are some moments of fiery passion. Orestes (Samy Elkhatib) and Electra (Game of Thrones’ Meena Rayann) are dedicated to giving an energetic performance and yet are sabotaged by a weird incorporation of song. Both Elkhatib and Rayann run into problems when singing: the problem being that they can’t sing. And, whilst the entire play is accompanied by a three-man rock band, enrichen the performance they do not.
As the play continues it only gets worse. It is riddled with missed cues and incorrect intonation. The Flies alters from French to English during its run and the majority of the cast hold strong accents, whether in French it is timed correct I don’t know, but this incorporation of multilingualism has done it no favours. Hopefully with some more rehearsals The Flies can fight its way out of incoherence, but as it stands I remain unconvinced by the dramatics in play.
The Flies is playing until 16t July. For more information and tickets, visit The Bunker website.