Post-traumatic and post-modern : a South African "Electra".
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The ancient myth of Electra seems to be of particular interest to South African writers and playwrights. This article focuses on the adaptation by Mervyn McMurtry, entitled Electra, which was produced in Durban in 2000. The underlying theme of his adaptation, which is based on the four Greek “Electra” tragedies by Aeschylus, Sophocles and Euripides, is the question of truth. This question — an important post-modern one — was of particular relevance for the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) in South Africa as it tried to deal with the legacy of the former apartheid regime. McMurtry’s play begins with a prologue six days after the matricide, while the actual play is performed as a sort of flashback. All the characters suffer from various symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder. The chorus consists exclusively of women who all have been victims / survivors of male violence. This article proposes that McMurtry uses the ancient Electra myth to reflect on the situation of contemporary South African society (and particularly women), as it struggles to come to terms with a traumatic past.