Thursday, 27 August 2009

Oedipus – A Poetic Requiem. Liminal Theatre ***

Adapted from Ted Hughes, by Liminal Theatre
 J-Studios, Barkly St Nth Fitzroy, Aug 27 to Sept 14, 2009
Reviewer: Kate Herbert

Ted Hughes’ version of Oedipus is a visceral text that accentuates the horror of the Ancient Greek legend of Oedipus the king, who unwittingly killed his father and married his mother. Yes, the Greeks beat modern movie-makers when it comes to violence and gore.

Mary Sitarenos’ award-winning production is an adaptation of Hughes’ text performed by four women (Ivanka Sokol, Jo Smith, Georgina Durham, Claire Nicholls) wearing black gowns. This chorus of writhing creatures narrates the tale and speaks as Oedipus, his wife and mother, Jocasta, her brother, Creon, Teiresias, the prophet, and the Oracle of Delphi. Sometimes huge, stark, white masks (designed by James McAllister) represent the characters.

Oedipus is also present in the resonant and haunting, recorded voice of Peter Finlay, which resounds in the tiny theatre. The bodies and voices, combined with a pervasive, throbbing soundscape (Chris Wenn) and evocative lighting (Damian “Mimmo” Lentini) and projections is atmospheric, intense and often gruesome. Sex and death, blood, dirt and “black, bitter gall” are the images created.

We witness the demise of King Oedipus as he slowly and painfully recognises that he has brought the curse upon the city of Thebes, that he is the plague that afflicts his people. “I am not fit for the light”, he cries. The light is fading on him, his city and his family and it finally blinks out as he gouges out his own eyes.

This entire, abstract production has an ominous feeling as we peer into the world of Oedipus. The combination of moving bodies, portentous soundscape, dim lighting and restrained voices intoning the horrific and graphic imagery of Hughes’ poetic words creates a grim and chilling theatrical experience.

By Kate Herbert

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