Written by Sophocles (Translated by E.F. Watling)

Thurs 3rd October - Sat 5th October & Tues 8th October - Sat 12th October 1985

Directed by Isobel D'Arcy

Electra is waiting for her brother, Orestes to return. He will avenge the death of their father, Agamemnon, King of Mycenae, murdered by their mother. This play of power struggle and revenge is here set in a modern Greek town with echoes of the Colonels' regime in the 1960s, together with Greek music and dancing.


Sophocles (c497 BC - c407 BC)

Sophocles was born in Colonus Hippius (now part of Athens), he was to become one of the great playwrights of the golden age. The son of a wealthy merchant, he would enjoy all the comforts of a thriving Greek empire. Sophocles was provided with the best traditional aristocratic education. He studied all of the arts. By the age of sixteen, he was already known for his beauty and grace and was chosen to lead a choir of boys at a celebration of the victory of Salamis in 480 BC. In 468 BC he defeated Aeschylus, whose pre-eminence as a tragic poet had long been undisputed, in a dramatic competition and from 468 BC Sophocles won first prize about 20 times and many second prizes. His life coincided with the period of Athenian greatness. He was not politically active or militarily inclined, but the Athenians twice elected him to high military office.

Sophocles wrote more than 100 plays of which seven complete tragedies and fragments of 80 or 90 others are preserved. He was the first to add a third actor. He also abolished the trilogic form. Sophocles chose to make each tragedy a complete entity in itself--as a result, he had to pack all of his action into the shorter form, and this clearly offered greater dramatic possibilities. Sophocles also effected a transformation in the spirit and significance of a tragedy; thereafter, although religion and morality were still major dramatic themes, the plights, decisions and fates of individuals became the chief interest of Greek tragedy.

TranslatorE.F. Watling

Edward Fairchild Watling (1899 - 1990)

Watling was an English school-master, classicist and translator; producing translations for Penguin Classics of Sophocles' Theban Plays, nine plays of Plautus and a selection of Seneca's tragedies. He was educated at Christ's Hospital and University College, Oxford and taught Classics at King Edward VII School in Sheffield from 1924 until his retirement in 1960. He contributed to amateur dramatics in Sheffield both as actor and producer, initially for the Sheffield Playgoers and later in Geoffrey Ost's productions at the Sheffield Playhouse. He also wrote sketches for the West End revues of André Charlot, and was a regular reviewer of both books and theatre for the Sheffield Telegraph. As "Marcus", he compiled crosswords for The Listener until he was in his seventies.


This play is a translation by E F Watling from the original play by Sophocles, which itself is based on a Greek myth. scholars have supposed that it was written towards the end of Sophocles' career. Set in the city of Argos a few years after the Trojan war, it is based around the character of Electra, and the vengeance that she and her brother Orestes take on their mother Clytemnestra and step father Aegisthus for the murder of their father, Agamemnon.

Agamemnon and Menelaus are brothers; Kings of Mycenae and Sparta respectively. Paris, Prince of Troy, visits Menelaus' court and falls in love with Helen, the Queen, and abducts her to Troy. Agamemnon brings his army to fight for her return. Unfortunately, he has angered the goddess Artemis by killing a stag in her sacred grove. For this sacrilege, the goddess withholds the winds, preventing the Greeks sailing for Troy. She demands the sacrifice of Iphigeneneia, Agememnon's daughter. This is performed, and the fleet set sail.

Clytemnestra, Queen of Mycenae, nurses a grudge against her husband for killing her daughter. On his return from Troy, ten years later, she murders him, and marries Aegisthus, half-brother to Agememnon. Electra, her daughter, vows to avenge the death of her father, and sends her young brother Orestes away until he has grown to manhood and can return to avenge their father's death by killing Clytemnestra and Aegisthus.

Chrysothemis is the fourth child, who has taken no part in Electra's plans. She prefers to live within the rules of her mother, while in sympathy with her sister.

The Bench Production

Electra poster image

This play was staged at Havant Arts Centre, East Street Havant - Bench Theatre's home since 1977.


Taverna OwnerRichard Fieldhouse
The GreekDavid Penrose
OrestesBen Payne
Priest (Tutor)Peter Holding
PyladesStephen Evans
ElectraJo German
Taverna Owner's wifeNicola Scadding
MotherJanet Simpson
ChrysothemisJudith Holding
ClytemnestraIngrid Corrigan
CompanionRobbie Cattermole
AegisthusTerry Cattermole
BodyguardColin Hardy


Director Isobel D'Arcy
Stage Manager Robbie Cattermole
Assistant Stage Manager Pete Woodward
Lighting and Sound Tony Kellaway
Publicity John Valentine
Front of House John Scadding
John Bohun

Director's Notes

I have been a lover of both Ancient and Modern Greece, and the Greek tragedies. This led me to 'Electra', with its marvellous parts for women. While re-reading the play, it struck me that there were many resonances with the power struggles of Greece in the twentieth century - not least with the time of the Colonel's regime of the 1960s. While not making Aegisthus into one of those actual military governors, the idea of an oppressive military regime is there Orestes therefore has a touch of the resistance leaders of the Civil War in Greece following World War II, as well as a personal avenger.

The Greek Orthodox Christian religion lies easily on the old religion of the Greek gods. There are thousands of little Greek churches on hilltops, by streams, on beaches; easy to imagine they are on the same sites as the ancient shrines to gods of mountains, rivers and seas. Some saints have been directly transformed - Artemis has changed sex to become St Artemidos, Apollo becomes Saint Appollon. May Day celebrations in modern Greece are a direct descendant of the ancient rituals, and Greeks today mix invocations to the saints and the old gods indiscriminately. Even we still use the phrase "in the lap of the gods". So the shrine to Apollo in our production becomes the ikon of Saint Apollon, brought out of the church into the square and decorated on his Saint's Day. The old and new religions mix as old and new religions have always mixed. Electra pays tribute to Christian practice but still retains the religion of her beloved father.

The music for the production is Syrtaki folk dance and Rebetika. The songs are by Theodorakis. Miki Theodorakis' music was banned in Greece during the Colonel's regime. There was a case of students being imprisoned for listening to his songs. Theodorakis lived outside Greece, and only returned when the regime fell. Rebetika is the equivalent of 'blues' music and mostly concerns the oppressed, the imprisoned, and those addicted to hashish. The singers of Rebetika are also the poets. Syrtaki is the dance music that most visitors to Greece will be familiar with, thought often westernised with a 'pop' rhythm section.

Isobel D'Arcy


The NewsJanice Macfarlane

Modern setting for an ancient power play

A timeless tragic masterpiece is given a modern history setting in the Bench Theatre's production of 'Electra' by Sophocles. Director Isobel D'Arcy, a confirmed Graecophile, has used her knowledge of 20th Century Greek history and culture to give the play nuances of the power struggle during the Colonels' regime of the sixties.

Hence, Aegisthus is an oppressive figure in the mould of Peron, Somosa, or Galtieri, and his mistress Clytemnestra - the Joan Collins of the piece - is a woman of ambiguous intention and ambition rather like Eva Peron. Her son Orestes returns to avenge the murder of his dead father as a young rebel, and is welcomed by the people as a freedom fighter. Another thoughtful innovation is to set the play outside an ordinary taverna, such as you would see on holiday in any small village, with a shrine combining the ancient gods with the Christian. Instead of a corporate group, the chorus is split into five ordinary character, whose individuality develops in different ways.

Notable of these was The Greek, played by David Penrose as a Zorba-esque figure. At the centre of the production is the lady herself, Electra. Jo German, one of the Bench's most accomplished actresses, plays this demanding role very brooding, brittle and tense - until the moving reunion with her brother Orestes, when she straightened into a hard taut figure who knew her hour had to come. While the first-night audience was disappointingly small, the company of 13 players managed to keep the tension level high for most of the action. Although Aegisthus did not exactly have the air of a man walking off to his death, Terry Cattermole has the problem of having to make a powerful impression in a very short time when things are at their most intense.

It's a sign of the times, I know - but such heavy human drama forces comparison with 'Dynasty' and 'Dallas'. Will we still think of Alexsis and J.R. in 2,000 years time? 'ELectra' is performed until Saturday, and from Tuesday to Saturday next week at the Old Town Hall Havant as the Arts Centre is now named.

The News, 4th October 1985

Production Photographs