Wednesday, 26 July 2006

Oedipus, Eagles Nest Theatre, ,July 25, 2006

Adapted from Sophocles by Robert Reid
Eagles Nest Theatre
Trades Hall: July 25-29. Williamstown Mechanics Institute: Aug 1-5, 2006
Alternates with Hamlet until Aug 5, 2006
Reviewer: Kate Herbert

Be prepared for an Oedipus that Sophocles did not write in this hybrid script adapted by Robert Reid. 

The production interpolates snatches of Sophocles’ monologues, dialogues and choruses with invented or borrowed text and a grab bag of styles including slapstick, surrealism, murder mystery and vaudeville.

The Oedipus Complex, as the modern world knows it, is introduced by the character of Sigmund Freud (Phil Roberts) who strolls on occasionally to shed psychoanalytical light on the King of Thebes who unwittingly killed his father then married his mother.

Then we have visits from Sherlock Holmes (Phil Zachariah), chewing a pipe and snorting cocaine, who comments on the complexities of the mystery. I don’t know why.

Some of these additions to the original text do work. Freud and Holmes are more successful than the stylistic changes to the Chorus mainly because the two older actors playing them bring some technical skill to their portrayal.

The idea of a chirping, female cabaret ensemble as the Chorus could work but this group of four young women sporting false beards and moustaches and wearing showgirl fishnets, lacks the requisite vocal and acting technique to carry the vaudeville style or to express the resonance of the text.

Sometimes the insertion of contemporary and popular culture references add a layer but generally they are more annoying that insightful.

The scenes that do resonate are those involving a sassy Felicity Steel as Jocasta and playful Trevor Vaughan as Oedipus. Vaughan, although his voice was often rasping (a cold? Too many shows?) finds an intelligent balance between the classical text and the contemporary style.

Director, Robert Reid, effectively layers Steel’s acrobatic skills over Jocasta’s dialogue to create sensual images and evocative poses.

The eclectic stylistic mix includes the use of a giant head puppet to represent Teiresias, the soothsayer, while the Chorus intoned his prophesies. This has some theatrical potential but the stage is so busy and the puppet head so precarious that it is difficult to listen to the text.

The simple design by Michael Roper provides an abstract red canopy for the action and Anita King’s costumes establish a cabaret atmosphere.

This production is more confusing than enlightening about Oedipus but it certainly breaks the boundaries of expectations of the play.

By Kate Herbert

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