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Theatre Review: Girl On An Altar is the theatrical equivalent of eating your greens

This new take on a Greek tragedy is slow, pretentious and mind-numbingly boring

Girl On An Altar at London's Kiln Theatre (Photo: Peter Searle)

Girl On An Altar
Kiln Theatre, London until June 25

There’s a breed of theatre-makers who see it as their role in life to put on
productions that are slow, pretentious and mind-numbingly boring, but
they feel, much as our parents did when they force-fed us vegetables as
toddlers, that they somehow do us good. Marina Carr’s Girl on an Altar is a
prime example. Supposedly a new take on Aeschylus’s tragedy Agamemnon,
it amounts to little more than a charmless EastEnders-style drama about the miserable relationship between Clytemnestra (Eileen Walsh) and Agamemnon (David Walmsley).

It’s supposed to have an epic quality, but all the great big epic scenes are talked about rather than actually depicted, so it actually feels claustrophobic. There are some purportedly steamy sex scenes, but those, like the play, are all talk and no trousers. Annabelle Comyn directs with what can only be described as a sense of grim determination.

There was a time when all a theatre had to do was to announce that it had
an idea for a new interpretation of an Ancient Greek tragedy, set the stage
fog machine on full power and get some actors opining on stage about the human condition, and critics and audiences were sure to be enraptured. That was, however, maybe 30 years ago or more and times and tastes have
changed. I don’t say this production isn’t well acted, designed and directed. All I wonder is what the point of it is.

I note, incidentally, that the Kiln’s big autumn production is a revival of Handbagged, which I guess they are obligingly putting on to remind people that Moira Buffini once knew how to write a play. Girl on an Altar and an expedient retread is not what a cutting-edge theatre ought to be about.

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