by Jean Giraudoux, Studio Stage, Stratford Festival
GIRAUDOUX BECOMES ELECTRA
The Stratford Festival’s production of Jean Giraudoux’s Electra, the second instalment in the Festival’s House of Atreus series playing in the intimate Studio Theatre, is a powerful and compelling accomplishment.
It has been suggested that Giraudoux’s wordy plays take the stage only with great difficulty, but the Stratford mounting of Electra, so remarkable for the strength of its design and acting, proves this theory wrong. Whereas Rubin dallied with Asian performance techniques in his mainstage production of Pericles at this year’s Festival, he has taken to heart this French drama’s modernist penchant for questioning and remaking abiding Western archetypes.
Much is packed into the production, but it is brought off expertly.
Rubin’s careful attention to visual details pays off as much as his guidance of the cast does. His keen eye is evident in the stage images he creates.
The emotional intensity, and verbal and visual lyricism this Electra achieves in the close space, with its extremely steeply raked seating, is impressive, and will no doubt help cement the Studio’s reputation as Stratford’s most exciting venue, the one in which the Festival’s most sophisticated and intelligent work is done.
The second play of the series, Electra, is clearly the best for several reasons. First, Leon Rubin is directing, with his customary mix of clear-eyed vision and inspired theatricality.
Rubin has staged the whole thing as a satanic valentine, with the Furies played by three French schoolgirls who seem to have drifted in from Gigi. As the action grows darker, they grow up into slinky sirens before our eyes. It’s a wonderful visual metaphor and a neat way of handling the ‘chorus’ problem.
When good directors and fine actors are in the front lines, everything can still be quite wonderful.
The Globe and Mail
Returning to Stratford after his work on the history plays last season, the British director Leon Rubin stages this rich script with great verve.