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Kristin Scott Thomas (Electra) - photo credit Johan Persson


“I’m going to be doing something else acting-wise, I can’t say what, but it’s exciting.


“Kristin said: ‘I need to do Electra,’ ” Rickson


says. “Before that, I’d been very frightened of the Greeks. But she was so hungry and driven and reading the play with her, I discovered how much power and magnetism it had.” And so Scott Thomas’s request was


granted. “It wasn’t so much a special request, as ‘Do you want to come on this adventure with me? It’s going to be dangerous, it’s going to be dark,’ ” she says. “If Ian hadn’t said ‘yes’, I wouldn’t have done it. A Greek tragedy is tough – physically, emotionally and intellectually – and you need to do that with supportive people. Our working relationship is about our ability to take risks together.” We’re sitting backstage at the Old Vic in


south London during a lunch break from rehearsals for the play. Rickson, 50, with the friendly expression of a children’s television presenter, sits cross-legged on the floor. Scott Thomas, 54, in tracksuit bottoms, elaborate Greek sandals and no make-up, looks as beautiful as ever – the Parmesan-grater cheekbones guarantee it – although there are heavy bags under her eyes and her normally alabaster skin is ashen. “Tiredness has kicked in,” she announces.


“I’ve reached the stage where my head is a bucket of water filled to the brim. Any more information pours over the side.” In the past few months, Rickson and Scott


Thomas have travelled to Mycenae in Greece, where the 2,400-year-old play is set. They’ve discussed Athenian mores with classics professors. With psychotherapist Susie Orbach, they have explored the psychology of the character who gave her name to the Jungian ‘Daddy’s girl’ complex. “You think, ‘Oh, yes, it’s a girl who wants to


get revenge on her mother’, and then you discover the play is about so many other things,” says Scott Thomas. “It’s about the young overtaking the old, it’s about death, about how difficult it is to be a woman in a very male society.” Studying Frank McGuinness’s translation,


both Scott Thomas and Rickson were struck by the play’s contemporary relevance, with its background of unending conflict and grudge matches. “I love the line ‘There’s nothing holy


anymore, nothing sane nor sensible. The world’s turned bad, and so have I,’ ” says Scott Thomas. “If you watch the news, it just couldn’t be more apt, but at the same time, it’s so reassuring to think they were thinking that in 400BC.” The play has a cast that also includes


Diana Quick as Electra’s mother Clytemnestra and Jack Lowden (whose performance in Richard Eyre’s production of Ghosts at the Almeida was much lauded) as her long-lost brother Orestes. “They could so easily all be


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