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Roast Beef – best served with a cheeky red



Review by Emma Whitelaw

BIZARRE yet incredibly thought-provoking, Leah Vitali’s award-wining play, Roast Beef, currently showing at Riverside Studios, is certainly one to view with an open mind.

A Philosophy lecturer once let me in on a little secret. He said that to truly understand and appreciate the thoughts and works of Descartes, Aristotle and the like, it is best to do so armed with a bottle of red.

Vitali’s Roast Beef, I feel, is much the same. Not that I condone binge-drinking, especially at the theatre! It’s just that I feel this piece is so provocatively unusual, it takes a lot of lateral thinking to fully appreciate the intricately evil themes.

Roast Beef is a modern day take on the ancient Greek myth of Agamemnon, King of Argos and his wife, Clytemnestra. They sacrifice their daughter, Iphigenia, to the Gods, in the hope that a favourable wind will sail for the war against Troy.

Agamemnon, played by Stratos Tzortzoglou, leaves for battle, while his wife takes a lover, none other then the king’s brother, Aegisthus! Succumbing to her every evil wish, Aegisthus becomes somewhat of a gimp, as he parades about on her leash.

Roast Beef takes place when the King returns from battle. He has no memory of the life he left behind and has no idea of the gruesome destiny ahead.

Sarah Douglas, best known for her roles in Superman I & II and Falcon Crest, was utterly amazing as the wicked Clytemnestra. Maliciously insane and callous, her performance was absolutely flawless. She is an immensely talented actress and a pleasure to watch onstage.

Making her professional debut, the stunning Kitty O’Lone played Clytemnestra’s bewitching daughter, Iphigenia. She too gave a dazzling performance, and the young star certainly held her own among the veterans, despite only having graduated from ALRA last year.

Iphigenia is so obsessed with becoming Clytemnestra that she not only mimics her mother’s persona; she takes both Aegisthus and Agamemnon to bed!

Aegisthus, played by the talented Glenn Conroy, is also obsessed with being someone else. His desire is to be Agamemnon and have everything his brother owns – including his wife!

However, when his brother returns to his estranged wife’s bed, Aegisthus becomes enraged with envy, resulting in a most horrific outcome.

The costuming was fabulous, as was the lighting, sound and set designs. The sound was particularly successful in adding an eerie feel to the mysterious and compelling plot.

Unlike the original Greek tragedy, Roast Beef has an element of humour about it. The characters are quite preposterous and the dialogue full of punch lines. To transcend the bounds of tragedy is credit to both writer and performer.

For a play involving such grotesque and bizarre subject matter, it sure got a lot of laughs!

Roast Beef written by Leah Vitali, produced & translated by Sozos Loizou. Directed by Alkis Kritikos. Starring Sarah Douglas, Stratos Tzortzoglou, Glenn Conroy, Maureen Purkis and Kitty O’Lone. Tuesday, June 8 - Sunday, June 27 at Riverside Studios, Crisp Road, Hammersmith, London, W6. Box office 020 8237 1111.

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