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NTCK to stage 5-hour modern take on Greek trilogy

By Hwang Dong-hee

Published : Aug. 15, 2023 - 15:13

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Actors rehearse a scene from Actors rehearse a scene from "This Restless House" during a press conference held in Seoul, Friday. (NTCK)

In staging “This Restless House,” English playwright Zinnie Harris' contemporary reworking of the "Oresteia" Greek trilogy, the National Theater Company of Korea takes on a daunting challenge: keeping the audience engaged throughout the five-hour performance.

Friday's rehearsal for the first part, which was open to the press, exceeded two hours. With a total performance time of five hours, including intermission, it is the longest work ever staged by the NTCK.

“I had been waiting for an intense work like this,” director Kim Jeong, who is helming the first production of the play in Korea, said during a press conference that followed the rehearsal. Kim won the 2017 Dong-A Theater Award for “Guests.”

“I was thrilled reading the script. ... The reason the original script of ‘Oresteia’ has survived over 2,500 years lies in its ability to shake human nature,” said Kim.

“And Harris has reimagined the play in a familiar yet relatable way for the contemporary audience, while preserving the essence of the original.”

Director Kim Jeong speaks during a press conference held in Seoul, Friday. (NTCK) Director Kim Jeong speaks during a press conference held in Seoul, Friday. (NTCK)

The original Greek play unfolds with King Agamemnon of Mycenae, the leader of the Greek army, returning home victorious from the Trojan War. However, waiting at home is his wife, Queen Clytemnestra, who holds a vengeful grudge against Agamemnon for having sacrificed their eldest daughter Iphigenia to appease the gods on his way to war. Clytemnestra takes a bloody revenge and is, in turn, killed by their two other children -- daughter Electra and son Orestes -- for the death of Agamemnon. The family murders lead to the rule of law eventually interceding.

In Harris’ version of the classic, women are at the center of the narrative -- Clytemnestra and Iphigenia lead the first part, while Electra, instead of Orestes, leads the revenge in the second part. Harris also introduces a new character, Audrey, in the third part, a psychiatrist living in different time and space, with whom Electra, who has transcended her own dimension, seeks therapy. Two women who share similar traumas confront the past in their sessions.

The play asks whether it is possible to break free from the chains of revenge while examining the traumas of those who have experienced tragedy.

Actors rehearse a scene from Actors rehearse a scene from "This Restless House" during a press conference held in Seoul, Friday. (NTCK)

The play is scheduled to run at Myeongdong Theater in central Seoul, from Aug. 31 to Sept. 24. With a running time of five hours, the performance starts at 5:30 p.m. on weekdays and 3 p.m. on weekends.

English subtitles will be provided on Thursdays and Sundays, except for the Aug. 31 performance.

The play is recommended for audiences aged 16 and above.