Mercy stays revenge’s hand
“I have long wanted to create a work that explores the cycle of violence; and the dilemma of survivors who
have to choose between the impulse to avenge and the impulse to forgive.” Yael Farber
This is Yael Farber’s acclaimed adaptation of the Oresteia Trilogy by Aeschylus, set in a contemporary
South African context. “Molora” is the seSotho word for “ash”.
Yael Farber’s international credentials include the run of her widely praised work Amajuba: Like Doves
We Rise off-Broadway and throughout North America, following runs at London’s West End, the Sydney
Theatre Company of Australia and five additional years of worldwide touring.
Molora weaves together ancient cycles of revenge with recent South African history, portraying the appalling
incidents that came to light at the country’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission hearings in the ’90s. At the
hearings, perpetrators of human rights violations faced their victims and, in exchange for possible amnesty,
gave detailed accounts of their deeds. Farber sets the action of Molora at what might have been a typical
hearing. Clytemnestra, the queen who has murdered her king, Agamemnon, faces her daughter Electra, who
witnessed the act as a child and has long plotted revenge with her brother Orestes. Brutal torture methods
employed by Clytemnestra to extract information on Orestes’ whereabouts, such as the notorious “wet bag”
technique used by the apartheid regime, are re-enacted in the testimony. This dramatic confrontation
between victim and perpetrator was re-enacted thousands of times across South Africa during the course of
the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, while the country held its collective breath and watched events
In Molora, the ancient Greek context is radically reinvented according to a deeply traditional, rural Xhosa
aesthetic. Farber chose to collaborate with the Ngqoko Cultural Group, who are trained in the ancient art of
split-tone singing. The group also uses traditional musical instruments. This soundscape lends a haunting,
deeply emotive texture to the work.
But unlike the original Oresteia Trilogy, in which the cycle of revenge is fulfilled, Farber has modified the
story to break the cycle of violence, reflecting South Africa’s own transformation in the 1990s.
The Market Theatre in association with the Farber Foundry