Saturday, 18 August 2012

On The Misconception of Oedipus, Aug 17, 2012, ***

Text by Tom Wright; devised by Zoë Atkinson, Matthew Lutton & Tom Wright
Beckett Theatre, Malthouse,  Aug 10 to 26, 2012
Reviewer: Kate Herbert
Stars: ***

Natasha Herbert & Richard Pyros

IN THE GREEK MYTH AND SOPHOCLES' ANCIENT GREEK PLAY, Oedipus the King unwittingly murdered his father and married his mother.

If you wondered what happened before Oedipus discovered his horrific transgressions, On The Misconception of Oedipus cunningly fabricates an entangled family narrative based on Jocasta (Natasha Herbert) and Laius (Daniel Schlusser) and the birth of their doomed son, Oedipus (Richard Pyros).

There is nothing classical about this play, which is a contemporary exploration of Freud’s Oedipus Complex. “Misconception” is a pun on the ill-fated birth of Oedipus as well as a reference to the script’s deliberate fiddling with the myth.

The production begins promisingly with Tom Wright’s text presenting three, smug, self-absorbed, middle-class characters who address the audience directly in elaborate monologues directed with simplicity by Matthew Lutton and staged in a bleak, anonymous and unfinished room (Zoë Atkinson).

Their pretentious ramblings reveal the parents’ struggle with infertility, the mother’s fear of a childless future and the father’s overwhelming fear of bearing a monstrous child.

These oddly compelling, confrontational opening scenes that focus on language, give way to an abstract, silent version of Oedipus murdering his father in a show of senseless violence.

Performances by Herbert, Schlusser and Pyros are sleek, engrossing and skilful, but the play ends, unfortunately, with a messy, unsatisfying version of the lovers – mother and son – engaged in banal banter and smooching in a shabby living room.

These intentionally clashing styles do not illuminate the myth or the characters, but merely act to diminish the impact of the more stylised, enlightening earlier monologues.

By Kate Herbert
 Natasha Herbert

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