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‘The Flies’: Sartre's Take On Guilt and Grief

The stage of The Bunker's The Flies comes alive with smoke, flickering TV screens and the characters of the play stumbling on and off stage, accompanied by red flags with eye symbols staring out at the audience. The evoked terror of this set design is undeniable, however, one wonders if it could have been utilised more effectively if the tone had been kept the same throughout the piece.

Photo Credit: Camille Dufrenoy

The Flies is Satre’s retelling of the story of The Orestes, where Satre uses the ancient story of family betrayal to poke at the recent wound of World War Two. It might have benefited the production to consider this context slightly more, since even though WWII imagery is occasionally used, it often feels sporadic. Such imagery also interlaced with the Athenian-esque dress of Orestes and his companion, the camp dances and singing of the furies, and the use of modern technology. These constant irregular changes in aesthetic undermine the unified tone of the play, and distract from the overall build of tension within the piece. One gets the impression that the lengthy script is at fault for these uneven changes of style.

The family relationships holding this play together have the potential to be emotive. For example, Elektra’s abusive and complex relationship with her mother is pitted against her half dream, half reality with her brother Orestes. However, these relationships seem to lack the chemistry needed to fully explore these difficult issues.

One of the alterations made, which works particularly well with this script, is the band accompanying the characters' dialogue. This is used ingeniously, to add some much-needed tension to Satre’s occasionally wordy script. The band are well integrated into the play, with metatheatrical jokes made throughout about their position on stage.

Whilst there are enjoyable aspects of this performance, ultimately, the constant shifts in the tone of storytelling undermine any build towards a strong thematic conclusion. The issues of family relations and grief, despite being intriguing, do not seem to be explored in enough depth to leave the audience with anything but a vague sense of unanswered questions.

'The Flies' was on at The Bunker until the 6th of July and more information can be found about the production here.

Edited by Alexia McDonald, Digital Editor

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