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Compagnie Simone Rist’s production of Iphigenia in Tauris is a two hour French adaptation of Euripides’s classic tragedy by JW Von Goethe.

Iphigenia, saved from sacrifice by Goddess Diana, is now captive in the country of Tauris. She has become the Goddess’s priestess. As such, she is expected to organise human sacrifices for all newcomers. But her kind influence has convinced King Thoas to cease the cruel custom. Infatuated with Iphigenia, Thoas proposes to her but, as she refuses, sacrifices are re-established. When two foreigners, Orestes and Pylades, arrive in Tauris, they are captured to be sacrificed.

The play begins with Iphigenia kneeling at the feet of Goddess Diana’s statue. The light is red and announces emotions to come. The stage remains bare although the scenes, with only a bench and a statue for props. Actors dress in contemporary clothes.

Once the audience accepts the theatrical setting, it can fully enter the dramatic and poetic atmosphere of the text. This trick actually allows modernity and intimate actions. It creates an opportunity for actors to commit entirely to their intense role.

Lights and music become part of the text, accompanying the emotional evolution of the characters. Actions unravel with the words. The convincing interpretation shows complexity and contradiction in feelings, replacing the lack of stage props.

Mythology here is a pretext to raise confrontational contemporary issues. It depicts a woman’s suffering in exile, and her need for emancipation from a man’s world. In her desperate quest for equality and humanity over barbarism, Iphigenia is denouncing hate for foreigners as well as cruel customs. A special mention to Elisabeth Duda, whose performance communicates force and fragility in a complex role, especially in relation to her moral dilemma towards the end. She occupies the bare stage with her charisma, speaking lines with precision and conviction.

However, for people who are not familiar with mythology and French language, the small screen with occasional subtitles may be difficult to follow and the lack of language subtleties frustrating. Two hours may be strenuous even though family relationships as well as the origins of the issues are regularly repeated, and despite the understandable and compelling intensity of acting.

Reviewer: Helene Audureau
Reviewed: 18th August 2016


Champs Mêlés’ production of Iphigenia in Tauris is a two hour, French language translation of J.W von Goethe’s 18th century adaptation of Euripides’ original Greek tragedy with the occasional English surtitle. So it’s somewhat niche.

If you’re not a French speaker or you’re not already intimately familiar with Euripides’ original tragedy or the surrounding myths of the Oresteia and the Trojan War, you might find it a little bit difficult to follow. The English surtitles pop up on a small screen stage-left which is just far enough outside your peripheral vision to make you regularly switch between it and the actual action on stage. That is, when they appear at all. As noted, they are ‘occasional’, usually appearing for most key plot points but there are regular 5-10 minute sections without any translation at all.

This having been said, the show itself manages to be fairly compelling from beginning to end even with the potential language barrier. Elisabeth Duda gives a strong performance as Iphigenia, whilst Clement Hassid provides an interesting interpretation of Orestes’ ever-growing madness as the Furies continue to harass him. The physical and emotional skill of the entire cast is evident, and means that though you might not understand the words, you’re not completely lost at sea and large parts of the show are enjoyable.

However, the show is in drastic need of being shortened. Two uninterrupted hours of what is already a fairly obscure Greek Tragedy is too much, whatever your language. I happen to already be very familiar with the original tragedy as well as the surrounding mythology, but the average Fringe goer probably isn’t. The show does provide a glossary of terms and names to help you, but I imagine that’s it a tad difficult to refer to in the dark. This doesn’t mean that you can’t understand what’s going on, but that you might miss out on some of the subtleties.

So ultimately this show is recommendable, but mainly to those of a certain type. If it was an hour shorter and had more consistent, accurate subtitles, the show might appeal to a wider Fringe audience. For now, it’s mainly for the hard-core Greek Tragedy enthusiasts or those with a particular interest in French-language theatre.

Reviewer: James Beagon
Reviewed: 8th August 2016

Champs Mêlés / Compagnie Simone Rist

Iphigenia in Tauris

Iphigenia in Tauris @spotlites @edfringe

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Thurs 4th - Sat 20th August 2016

4:50pm (2 hours)

From France

By JW von Goethe. Iphigenia, Diana’s priestess, has to immolate all foreigners entering the country.
Her kindness leads King Thoas to suspend this barbarian custom.
With no inheritor, Thoas wishes to marry her and, as she refuses, re-establishes human sacrifices.
Orestes and his friend Pylades arrive in Tauris.
As foreigners, they are destined to be sacrificed by Iphigenia…

This classical play of amazing modernity talks about highly topical subjects such as gender equality, rejection of foreigners and triumph of humanity over barbarism.
Iannis Xenakis’s Musik gives a fascinating dimension to Simone Rist’s timeless original staging.

In French with English subtitles

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£9 (£8 Concession) (£28 family of 4)

Group discount: 10% off for groups of 10+
2for1 on Mon 8th & Tues 9th

Friends of Fringe: 2 for 1 anytime – only available from Fringe Box Office

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