Edinburgh Fringe 2010
Anomienaulis, by young American playwright Christopher Chen, is an adaptation of Euripides’ Iphigenia at Aulis, and is performed here by students of YAT-C (Young Actors’ Theatre Camp). It is an often humorous, absurdist piece and the company do a fine job.
In the original work, King Agamemnon and his army wait at Aulis (the embarkation point for the Greek fleet) to attack the Trojans. In this version, Chen has cleverly attached the word ‘anomie’, meaning ‘alienation and purposelessness experienced as a result of a lack of values or ideals’; and this production conveys this very well. Set in a modern day Army Camp and telling the story of King Agamemnon who is made to sacrifice his daughter for the Greek cause, the whole thing is set in the Camp, with one side of the stage being used for the lethargic soldiers playing cards and endlessly oiling their rifles, whilst on the other side the bewildered King ruminates at his table. Other characters wander, skip and shuffle about (matching their character) as the inevitable, sacrificial climax draws near.
Chen’s script is very clever and conveys a real sense of the absurd nature of war, especially when soldiers are waiting and thinking too much about what is going to potentially be their imminent and (pointless) death. When one thinks the script may be getting a bit too serious, the King (dressed as an army superior) forgets what he is talking about or says ‘Oh, what does it matter!’ This really captures the idea of the inherent absurdity of conflict, especially now with the War on Terror.
The cast work well together. Some of the parts are interchanged on different days, a nice, fair method for the players. Jackson Fritz has a particularly mature stage presence as bloodthirsty Achilles, and Bhenn Houde-Hostland good comic style as the King’s mad brother Menelaus. They do well at portraying the mood and tone of barracks life.
The stage was very long and kind of split in the middle. The two sections felt too far away and disconnected from each other. Sometimes the meandering nature of the script got lost in the longer monologues and psychoanalytical cogitations, particularly of the soldiers who mumble somewhat out to the audience; and this is less interesting to watch. But considering they are an unprofessional company this is to be expected. It did sometimes feel like a school play, but on the whole the company, with director MJ Boswell, should be proud of themselves.
At an hour and a half this could of really dragged but, except in parts, it is very watchable due to both the humour of the script and the intriguing tone of anomie that is maintained. I enjoyed this a lot and I hope it gets bigger audiences.