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At the lower front stage, piled high with yellow earth bags, sprouts a tree. 'It's the tree which Elektra planted in memory of her father,' Kovalik adds: 'if you like, the family tree. Elektra remains infertile: her whole life is dedicated to her father. So she keeps this earth as a cherished symbol.' Miserable, black-clad, alienated, Elektra (Nadine Secunde) lurks, longing for the absent Orestes' return. This unhinged, obsessive Freudian misfit even appoints herself curator of the axe from Agamemnon's murder, which she harbours, clings to and grimly secretes.

Nadine Secune (Elektra) and Agnes Baltsa (Clytaemnestra) as 'Elektra' builds towards its bloody climax. Photo © 2007 Vera Éder
Nadine Secune (Elektra) and Agnes Baltsa (Clytaemnestra) as 'Elektra' builds towards its bloody climax. Photo © 2007 Vera Éder

Maybe it's the morgue-like quality of Kovalik's baths that lend his stylishly nasty Elektra its sense of ever-present death. Curiously, Baltsa's offstage shrieks and the demise of Dénes Gulyas' sleek, white-dressing-gowned Aegisthus, seem almost incidental; and a pair of intriguing coups d'oeil were slightly bungled. What pulled one up sharp was the almost copulatory clinch between Elektra and Béla Perencz's mock-sinister, dark glassed Orestes (perilously like a send-up): as they canoodle on the ground Secunde, reflected in the vast mirror above, looks like some grim forensic mock-up of a roadside murder (prescient, as it turns out). Omens abound. Perencz's gratuitous, mafia-like (and unscheduled) dispatch of the sisters at the close risks making the terror tongue-in-cheek and rendering Sophocles satire.

Eva Bátori as Chrysothemis and Nadine Secunde as Elektra have a stand-off in the Strauss-Sophocles-Hofmannsthal 'Elektra'. Photo © 2007 Vera Éder
Eva Bátori as Chrysothemis and Nadine Secunde as Elektra have a stand-off in the Strauss-Sophocles-Hofmannsthal 'Elektra'. Photo © 2007 Vera Éder

 

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Copyright © 13 March 2008 Roderic Dunnett, Coventry UK

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