Theatre Passe Muraille, Saga Collectif and Architect Theatre present this digital co-production of Iphigenia and the Furies (On Taurian Land). Directed by Jonathan Seinen, this is playwright Ho Ka Kei (Jeff Ho)’s modern-ish re-telling of Euripides’ Iphigenia among the Taurians.
There is a whole heap of Greek mythos in the backstory here, but Ho has whittled down some Trojan War lead-up into Iphigenia’s opening monologue. Her father, Agamemnon, has sacrificed her to the goddess Artemis, but she is plucked away from that fate and plopped onto Taurian land.
Once princess, now a priestess—she oversees the sacrificial slaughter of foreigners who arrive on the land. Her flair for the grand and theatrical both irritates and inspires her servant—Chorus—who actually carries out the killing.
The drama is set in motion by the arrival of Orestes and Pylades—who are gay lovers in this version and are almost constantly horny. The audience clues into Iphigenia and Orestes sibling bond long before they do and the tension mounts steadily from that moment on.
As Orestes, Kwaku Okyere is a visceral thrill. His body language shifts with the conflicting forces inside him—the dominant and affectionate lover, the self-assured adventurer, and the tormented mother-killer.
Virgilia Griffith has a subtle, grounded confidence. As she celebrates both the pride and humility of Iphigenia, the rhythm of her oscillation between them is riveting.
Pylades is mostly a comic presence here, but there are some poignant moments when Nathaniel Hanula-James allows his pain and frustration to rise to the surface.
With understated humour, Paula-Jean Prudat captures the whimsy and wisdom of Chorus. When standing her ground, she’s an imposing presence.
Most of the text gives off a classical vibe, but some of Ho’s contemporary flourishes feel incongruous. The modern slang fosters some relatability, but the references to bubble tea and Netflix seem out of place amidst the epic circumstances of the story and the fanciful majesty of Christine Ting – Huan 挺欢 Urquhart’s abstracted set and costumes.
Despite some fuzziness in the world-building, this is deeply affecting.
I love how elegantly it probes the ways in which we can be tainted and the burden of conflicting allegiance. Ho’s script invites us to unpack the dubious nature of identity and behaviour—who we are and what we chose to do.
We are left with a rather bleak meditation on colonialism—where heroism and freedom seem irrevocably linked to conquest and theft—that for any gain there must also be a loss. From within the context of this dismal reality, the play explicitly states its defiance—that we can and must “make space for something new.”