The production played at the Olivier Theatre at the National Theatre, London in 1981 and in the ancient amphitheatre at Epidaurus, in Greece in the summer of 1982.

Designed by Jocelyn Hebert
Directed by Peter Hall
Translated and adapted by Tony Harrison
Music by Harrison Birtwistle
Lighting by John Bury
Sound by Ric Green
Movement by Stuart Hopps

Length: about 5 hours including intervals.

The Oresteia is split into 3 plays – AgamemnonChoephoriEuminides. Tony Harrison translated and made into a new version the original plays that were written by Aeschylus in the 5th century BC. Herbert was present during many of the rehearsals and workshops which were spread out over six months and was able to work closely with Hall and the actors on the masks. Herbert not only contributed to the process by working out the best kind of mask to be used, but she gave input into the way that they were used. There are a many different versions of masks in the Jocelyn Herbert Archive, showing her process from her early research and designs to responses to rehearsals.  

Herbert also developed the costumes during rehearsals by making droopy items of clothing out of cheesecloth for the actors, then asking them to wear them however they wanted to as they worked. She did drawings of them in the clothes and fixed on a costume or detail when she felt something was effective. It is possible to get an idea of this process by looking at her sketches and at the many versions of the Trojan Women chorus costumes in the costume gallery on this website.

Herbert’s design for the Olivier stage closely follows the layout of a theatre such as Epidaurus, in effect including its important features inside the Olivier, whilst the materials and construction of these elements reflect the building they are placed in. She used her storyboard drawings to plan the use of the space. She drew a sketch of the stage, photocopied it, and then drew and painted ideas for her design onto the photocopies. These images show the different dynamics she envisaged for particular scenes using both the stage and the doorways in the back wall.

For more information about Herbert’s designs for The Oresteia visit the Google Arts and Culture exhibit The Role of the Theatre Designer.