This is Oresteia, not The Oresteia, the trilogy of plays (Agamennon, The Libation Bearers, The Eumenides) which won Aeschylus a prize in 458BC and which is considered the “original family drama” and the launching pad for all modern drama, but the free-wheeling, self-indulgent, filmic, and loose “adaptation” by Robert Icke which is now playing at the Almeida, kicking off Rupert Goold’s Greeks season. There are some wonderful images, some potent exchanges, some brilliant flashes of inspiration – but, overall, it does not hold together dramatically. For a production which lasts three hours and forty minutes, many many minutes are spent biding time.
To consider The Broken Heart as a soap opera is to fundamentally misconceive it. The author seemed clear enough that it was a tragedy and the text certainly sounds like a tragedy. The cast are not the problem. Each and every one attacks the play with verve and in the style chosen by director Chridtine Steinbeis. That the attack is misconceived is not down to them.