105: Ariel

4 Jul

Marina Carr modelled her play Ariel on Aeschylus’s The Oresteia, compressing the three-play tragedy into one three-act play.

Bernadino Mei's painting of Orestes slaying Aegisthus and Clytemnestra

Ariel is the name of the daughter sacrificed by her politician father, Fermoy. She’s born with the stubs of wings, beloved of both parents, but killed by her father who believes that God wants him to make a blood sacrifice, and that after he’s made it he’ll have the power he craves.

Fermoy believes he has direct access to God as he explains to his brother Boniface, who is a priest. Boniface asks him to describe God seeing as he knows him so well and this is what Fermoy says:

FERMOY: Oh, he’s beauhiful. When he throws hees head back hees hair gets tangled in the stars, in hees hands are seven moons thah he juggles like worry beads. Hees eyes is shards of obsidian, hees skin is turquoise, and hees mouth is a staggerin red, whah the first red musta been before ud all started fadin. I’m noh capturin him righ, for how can ya parse whah is perfect.

A little bit later, Fermoy describes the deal he’s made with God.

FERMOY: I’m on this earth to rule. Was born knowin ud. Timidihy has held me back till now. Ud’ll hould me back no longer. I refuse to spind any more a me life on the margins. I refuse to succumb to an early exih. I’ll give him wah he wants for ud’s hees in the first place anyway.

BONIFACE: And whah is ud he wants?

FERMOY: I tould ya, blood and more blood, blood till we’re dry as husks, then pound us down, spread us like salt on the land, begin the experiment over, on different terms next time.

Fermoy’s wife Frances still mourns the death of her first husband and child. When Ariel goes missing she scours the country for her, but ten years later realises that her now influential politician husband killed her. She stabs him in her fury. For an audience this seems justifiable homicide but, for her surviving children, there’s no forgiving the woman who killed their father, no matter what he did to deserve it.

ELAINE: She killed our father, slashed him till blood ran down the walls. I had to bury him in pieces.

Elaine, the Electra of the piece, has never cared for her mother: her loyalties have always been unswervingly with her father.

ELAINE: Whah my father done to Ariel had the grandeur a God in ud. Pure sacrifice. Ferocious, aye. Buh pure. Whah you done to him was a puckered, vengeful, self-servin thing wud noh a whiff of the immortal in ud.

Ariel is a brave, crazy play. A wonderful blend of myth, legend, dreams and greed. Blood follows blood and revenge just breeds more revenge as a family tears itself apart in one man’s quest for power.

Publisher: Faber and Faber (included in Marina Carr: Plays 2)

Cast: 4M, 5F plus 1M and 1F child (unless doubled with their adult counterparts)

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