Review | Laura Money
Wrenched savagely from the ancient tales, Greek tragic heroine Electra and her entire sordid story is brought violently into the modern world in this wonderful re-telling by Anna Barnes, Minus One Sister.
Phoebe Sullivan stumbles onto the stark, noir-style bricks that make up the simple set as the title character. Sullivan is a master at physical performance, her shuddering and fragmented movements devised by movement director, Jessica Russell are sublime. Complimented by a bass beat and intense soundtrack from Alex Turley, Sullivan’s jerky and inhuman movement renders her silent character an important reminder of how women’s voices are silenced, and the full cost of patriarchal power.
Memory and the concept of remembering is interwoven tightly around every aspect of Minus One Sister – from the characters playing a memory game (ads) as children, to attempting to remember the horrific events of the evening Iphigenia became minus one, to intergenerational trauma, and holding a grudge. The actors, whilst playing key characters, also inhabit different roles throughout. This dynamic approach creates a whip-sharp delivery of lines – with the actors often talking over each other, as though still trying to learn their lines. It is how they get the story straight.
Electra (Stephanie Somerville) has been upgraded from crazy pseudo-vestal virgin to a young woman suffering under the burden of mental illness. The tomb she inhabited becomes a hospital ward – eating disorder wing. It’s a clever metaphor for the inner torment that Electra feels after witnessing the death of her father at the hands of her mother. Somerville is fierce, angry and defiant – yet there is a softness and vulnerability to her performance that is ultimately endearing.
Skye Beker transitions between Electra’s sister, Chrysothemis, their mother, and a young school girl – gossiping about the events that had occurred. Shifting between tyrant and friend, Beker is able to create a fine line between the characters – the implication of that is that there is no one person to blame and nothing is black and white. Younger brother Orestes is depicted by Isaac Diamond and he also substitutes for any of the male characters throughout – including the assistant who inflicts the first blow to the family in a sequence eerily reminiscent of the Harvey Weinstein scandal. As Orestes, Diamond is playful and then resentful. Sheer glee shines in his eyes as he delivers the final blow of the piece in a neatly bookended sequence.
Minus One Sister encompasses everything – from the MeToo movement to the way men and women are trialled differently for major crimes. It exposes how gossip spreads like wildfire, how women are viewed as ‘asking for it’ in a digital age, how men use and abuse their power in a patriarchal society, and how inter-generational trauma contributes to mental health. It’s not a perfect re-telling – there are still some things that are too incongruous to translate – such as the sacrifice of Iphigenia, yet what Minus One Sister does is realise the relevance of the classics.
It’s a masterfully worked piece of darkness and exposure, that shines a light on the uncomfortable elements of society. It shows that not a lot has changed – and drags the dishonest kicking and screaming into a world of accountability.
WHEN: 27 January – 3 February 2018 | 9:30pm
WHERE: State Theatre Centre WA | Fringe Central | Northbridge
INFO: Tickets $23 – $29 | Duration 70 mins | Suitable 15+ | WA Artists | THEATRE