Clytemnestra in your living room? Greek Tragedy on the Small Screen

In Spring 2017 the Departments of Classics and of Film, Theatre and Television are hosting a unique opportunity to watch three films of Greek tragedy that were first shown on the small screen.

Our films are carefully chosen to pursue the theme of the Trojan War and its aftermath. We follow the story from the sacrifice of Agamemnon’s daughter Iphigenia, which permits him to lead the Greeks to victory in the war, through the return of Agamemnon to face his vengeful wife, and finally into the next, doomed generation, where another daughter, Electra, waits to take her revenge in turn. We have managed to obtain the coveted ‘F’ rating for all these films, since they all have central female roles, and one was also directed by a woman.

Wednesday January 25th: Iphigenia at Aulis
Our first screening is Iphigenia at Aulis, the 1990 production directed by Don Taylor. This was Taylor’s last drama for the BBC and also, apparently, the last Greek tragedy shown on British television. Taylor’s translations of the Iphigenia at Aulis and other plays by Euripides continue to be popular. The film was shot by multiple cameras in continuous action, in a studio rather than on location. It will be introduced by Dr Amanda Wrigley, who is a prominent researcher on TV drama.


Wednesday February 1st: Agamemnon
Our second play is Agamemnon, the first play of the 1979 trilogy The Serpent Son, a translation of Aeschylus’s Oresteia. Diana Rigg stars as Clytemnestra, but in this play the queen does not suffer loss – instead she turns the tables on her husband. Agamemnon returns to Greece as the victorious general, having destroyed the city of Troy, but he must now pay the price for the sacrifice of his daughter. Clytemnestra has waited at home a long time. The stellar cast of the trilogy included Helen Mirren, Anton Lesser, Claire Bloom, and Billie Whitelaw, and the production also sparked interest because of its striking design and costumes, which channelled ancient myths through a sci-fi sensibility – the designer, Barbara Kidd, had worked on Doctor Who.  The film is introduced by Prof. Barbara Goff of the Department of Classics.

Wednesday February 8th: Electra

Our final film, Electra, was first shown on ITV in 1962, in Modern Greek without subtitles.  The film is of the production by Dimitris Rondiris and Peiraïkon Theatron, which had toured much of the world since its premiere in 1959. This film is introduced by Dr Anastasia Bakogianni, of Massey University, New Zealand, who is an authority on the figure of Sophocles’ Electra in contemporary culture.


Come and join us for this unique series. All the films are shown in the Minghella Cinema, on the Whiteknights Campus of the University of Reading, at 7 pm. You can buy tickets for all three films at a special reduced price.

Tickets start at £5. Reduced rates for concessions, Reading Film Theatre members, and for the series as a whole. Please see or contact

Thanks to our colleagues at Reading Film Theatre and the University Arts Committee of the University of Reading