Iphigenia and the Furies (On Taurian Land)

A digital co-production of Theatre Passe Muraille, Saga Collectif, Architect Theatre

Courtesy of Theatre Passe Muraille website

Joe Szekeres

An arresting take on a Greek myth

I’ve written this before in other articles, but I’ll state it here once again. In my four-year undergraduate degree in English Language and Literature, I never studied any Greek mythology.

Rather surprising, I know, as many of the classics stem from Greek myths and tales.

I just never really had any interest in it at all.

After watching quite the arresting digital presentation of playwright Ho Ka Kei (Jeff Ho’s) ‘Iphigenia and the Furies (On Taurian Land)’, I now believe that creatively adapting this story in modern vernacular and colourful speech might just have been the push to get me to want to learn more about these fantastic Greek tales. The themes of revenge, love (of all kinds), family, belonging, sacrifice, traditions, the violence and the laughter have not altered over the years. As in all great and memorable stories and tales, there are some rather adult moments that could make one feel uncomfortable, but Corey Tazmania’s influence in the direction of violence and intimacy thankfully did not make me feel as if it had been broadly pushed into my face.

‘Iphigenia’ was the winner of the 2019 Toronto Theatre Critics’ Award for Best New Canadain Paly. Theatre Passe Muraille’s website describes this version unapologetically as a “quick witted, gender bending theatrical presentation” of a traditional myth.

Intriguing to watch Paula-Jean Prudat as The Chorus enter from outside of the Theatre Passe Muraille building and onto the stage carrying in her hands what appeared to be a brightly lit circular glass orb. The sound of crashing waves at the top of the show lured me to settle in and enter a world from eras before. We met a former princess but now priestess Iphigenia (a sublime performance by Virgilia Griffith) who describes a sacrifice made at the hands of her father Agamemnon. Iphigenia is rescued by Artemis who made her a high priestess and who must continue to perform sacrifices for Artemis. We also meet The Chorus (firm and forceful work by Paula-Jean Prudat) who ensures that any sacrifices deemed necessary by Iphigenia are carried out to their fullest extent.

Iphigenia’s strength of character becomes strongly put to the test when she meets her brother Orestes (audacious and fearless work by Kwaky Okyere) whom she does not initially recognize as they have not seen each other in years. Travelling with Orestes is Pylades whom the former calls “his brother from another mother” (and you can read into that what you wish since this is a Greek myth). As the dashing Pylades, Nathaniel Hanula-James soundly matches the intensity performance level not only from Okyere but also that of Griffith and Prudat.

There is so much to admire in this filmed production which highlights even more how much I have missed attending live theatre. Director Jonathan Seinen skillfully keeps the story and plot grounded while never allowing emotional moments to pitch way over the top. I was highly impressed with the camera work and Steve Haining’s film editing which made me truly believe I was sitting in the house at Theatre Passe Muraille. Christine Ting-Huan 挺欢 Urquhart’s rather simplistic set design of hanging white fabric to delineate the temple worked quite well for me, especially the torn fabric which represented the torn pillar. The playing space of the striped black and white floor was finely highlighted by Jareth Li’s sharp lighting. A bonus for me in this production was hearing Heidi Chan’s original music design using a variety of instruments that I rarely hear live in a theatre anymore such as a banjo
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FINAL COMMENTS: It felt good to be able to laugh out loud at certain times in Jeff Ho’s ‘Iphigenia’. Doing this allowed me to pay close attention to those dramatic moments where each of the four actors impressively made me pay attention to this story.

“A remarkably mind-bending story told by four notable artists whom I would like to see on stage in future.”

Running time: approximately 75 minutes with no intermission.
Production ran to February 26, 2022. For further information to access contact 416-504-7529 or by email at info@passemuraille.on.ca for inquiries.

Actors: Virgilia Griffith, Paula-Jean Prudat, Kwaku Okyere, Nathaniel Hanula-James
Iphigenia and the Furies (On Taurian Land)
A Digital Co-production with Architect Theatre, Sage Collectif and Theatre Passe Muraille
Written by Ho Ka Kei (Jeff Ho)
Director/Producer: Jonathan Seinen
Associate Producer: Cheyenne Scott
Dramaturge: Charlotte Corbeil-Coleman
Set/Costume Designer: Christine Tung-Huan 挺欢 Urquhart
Director of Photography & Editor: Steve Haining
Original Music and Sound Design: Heidi Chan
Lighting Design: Jareth Li
Stage Manager: Farnoosh Talebpour
Production Manager and Technical Director: Giuseppe Condello
Make Up Artist: Kat Matthews
Stunt Coordinator: Stephannie Hawkins
1st Assistant Camera: Dillon Lobo; 2nd Assistant Camera: Troy Sexto; 3rd Assistant Camera: Lennox Maximus

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