at The Bunker Theatre, Southwark, London
“The cast never ease up, pushing forever onwards to the tragic ending”
Exchange Theatre are celebrating their tenth anniversary by resurrecting this, their original adaptation of Jean Paul Sartre’s The Flies (or Les Mouches in its native tongue).
Written in 1943, it is based on the Greek classic tale of Orestes, with his newly rediscovered sister Electra, seeking to avenge the death of their father Agamemnon, king of Argos, by killing their mother Clytemnestra and her husband Aegisthus, who had deposed and killed Agamemnon.
[Samy Elkhatib as Orestes - Meena Rayann as Electra]
Such fun! Or, rather it would be, if it wasn’t all so earnest and stuck on the one tragic, plodding level of trauma and angst. This is Greek melodrama at its usual intensity - full-on and earnest.
The cast never ease up, pushing forever onwards to the tragic ending. The 2014 National Theatre production of Medea showed how to tackle this material. It achieved so much with depth, humanity, comedy and tragedy by doing little in the staging, thereby allowing the actors and the words to be prominent.
The Flies director David Furlong, I think, hides behind gimmicks. The multi-screened video design adds nothing, the Flies/Furies crawl around the stage and are undressed only to be found in ridiculous fishnets and high-heels and some characters, at random, burst into song.
[David Furlong as Aegisthus - Fanny Dulin as Clytemnestra]
The highlight of the evening is the music supplied by three-piece A Riot In Heaven, adding an almost constant raw soundtrack of electric rock, creating a weird and appealingly metallic air to the play, with subtle whining and vamping. When they burst into full rock backing mode for the odd song, the whole production lights up. Orestes’ final burst of a Meat Loaf-esque finale shows the potential. Advertising the show as a thrilling rock-opera, though, is a tad over-the-top, but does hint at what could have been. A new Godspell is waiting in the wings, but it is only teased at here.
Perhaps that is the problem - is this rock opera, physical theatre, melodrama, anarchic, cutting edge political theatre? I don’t know. There is too much going on. Less can be so much more satisfying at times.
Photographer Camille Dufrénoy
Director David Furlong
Producer Fanny Dulin
Designer Ninon Fandre
Music A Riot in Heaven
Performances Until 6th July - Tuesday to Saturday at 7.30pm
Performances in English, except these in French:
15th, 27th, 28th, 29th June and 2nd, 3rd, 4th July
Venue The Bunker, 53A Southwark Street, London SE1 1RU
Nearest Tubes London Bridge, Borough and Southwark
Tickets Box Office 020 7234 0486 or online at
Price £16 (£14 concessions) - Ten £10 tickets available for
each performance for under 30s
Running Time 2 hours 10 (including an interval)
Twitter @ExchangeTheatre @BunkerTheatreUK #TheFlies