Oedipus, Blue Elephant Theatre 01 March



Picture I lifted from onestoparts.com

So.  Let’s try to work this out.  Sophocles wrote Oedipus Rex and Oedipus at Colonus, while there is an Oedipus by Seneca.  But this was Oedipus ‘After Sophocles’  as pastiche Shakespeare, complete with painful rhyming tags, and complemented by some daring anachronisms.  I suppose that adrenaline, dating from about 1900, would be the most extreme, but the real question is how can the curse or prophecy of pagan gods  have any effect on characters who swear Jesus Christ?

Anyway, we had Oedipus in the manner of a modern production of Coriolanus or Macbeth, with the protagonist swaggering his way through extraneous scenes of martial display (war and plague had become very mixed up here) until he came to a terrible realisation that we didn’t care about because the whole thing was so exteriorised and the text was so clunky.

There were some beautiful stage pictures along the way, an effective scene between Oedipus and Jocasta, and for some reason I enjoyed the messenger speech (delivered by Nasa Ohalet) describing Jocasta’s death, which had here been overelaborated into a universal Wagnerian conflagration.

At the end, two girls behind me opined that the beginning (chorus singing in smoky darkness) had been stunning and that Jocasta (Samantha Andersen) had been very good.  To me, the opening seemed to be a typical Lazarus trick or mannerism that I’ve now seen often enough to start wishing for Katie Mitchell. Samantha Andersen was indeed very good, putting colour and emotion and variation into her part–but that’s what we needed from Oedipus and didn’t get from Robin Holden here.

See here for what I know of other Greek plays in London.


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