from an original work by Seneca
Caryl Churchill's Thyestes is a translation of Seneca's Roman tragedy, with its bloody revenge plot that provided the blueprint for Shakespeare’s Titus Andronicus. It was first performed at the Royal Court Theatre Upstairs, London, on 7 June 1994.
Thyestes and his brother Atreus are fierce rivals and joint rulers of Mycenae until Thyestes has an affair with Atreus’ wife and is banished along with his two young sons. Atreus vows revenge and pretends to forgive Thyestes in order to lure in his nephews. Once the boys are within his grasp, they are killed and served up in a stew for their father to feast upon. The play also highlights the plight of Tantalus, the brothers’ grandfather, who was sent to his eternal punishment in Tartarus for sacrificing his son and serving him up to the Gods at a banquet. The child in question, Pelops, was later revived and fathered both Atreus and Thyestes, doomed to repeat the sins of their fathers.
The Royal Court premiere was directed by James Macdonald and designed by Jeremy Herbert, with a cast including Sebastian Harcombe, Rhys Ifans, James Kennedy, Kevin McMonagle and Ewan Stewart.