If you know where to look there's a lot of good deals on cheap theatre tickets around, but Headlong's production of Sophocles' Elektra at the Young Vic takes things a step further: All tickets are free, you just have to book them in advance. There's also no press night so presumably amateur reviews like mine are all you're going to get. The good news is that this freebie is a show you wouldn't mind paying for, and as soon as you walk into the Maria, a studio whose space is often quite creatively used, it's clear from designer Holly Waddington's set that you're in for an imaginatively put-together evening. The audience are placed on three sides on the upper level, peering down at the action on a shiny marble floor in front of the palace's sliding doors. As the play proceeds, the set itself reveals a few secrets as well.
With all the quirkiness in the play's marketing I think I was expecting something more avant-garde in the production itself but this is actually a pretty solid, clear production and all the better for it. Director Carrie Cracknell does throw in a few stylised touches, and there's a recurring theme of a masked ball, inspired by a comment near the start about Clytemnestra throwing a party for the anniversary of her killing Agamemnon. Elsewhere this theme means we see Agamemnon's ghost looming over proceedings, wearing a gold mask that I presume is loosely based on the "Agamemnon" death mask at Mycenae. The production is held together very well by Lydia Leonard in the title role, a wiry and spunky performance that feels very physical - in this modern dress production I liked the detail of her wearing an electronic tag, explaining why she can't visit her father's tomb. I also liked Amanda Hale as Chrysothemis, most obscure of the Atreus siblings, and Joseph Mydell as the tutor who helped Orestes escape years ago, while Nadia Cameron-Blakey effectively puts across Clytemnestra's side of the story. Anne Carson's translation is traditional but very clear, and Guy Hoare lights the production very sparsely to strong effect. I don't know how they managed to fund this, but the Young Vic have chosen a strong piece to give away for free.
Elektra by Sophocles in a version by Anne Carson is booking until the 3rd of July at the Young Vic's Maria.