Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Oedipus by Sophocles, version by Frank McGuinness, Olivier Theatre, 8-Oct-2008 - Directed by Jonathan Kent

I'm probably not allowed to do the Oedipus-Schmeedipus-so-long-as-the-boy-loves-his-mother joke so I won’t.
The evening started before the actual when a group of men dressed in dark suits and collarless ties arrived and seated themselves strategically near the stage. Their presence wasn't that odd, after all they were members of the chorus gathering to make a big entrance at some point.
The stage was a shallow dome or top chord of a sphere with a mighty set of doors at its top. The whole thing rotated slow throughout the play and the only other piece of furniture was a large wooden picnic style that appeared to sit on the dome without moving with it. I did find this effect clever so much as a distraction while I worked how it was being done.
Noticing immovable may suggest to some that there wasn't better stuff on stage, but there was. I just get easily distracted by stage trickery that I feel compelled to work out. Ralph Fiennes and Clare Higgins were good although I didn't sense the heat between them that I thought the story demanded. The parade of talents – the actors coming in to deliver messages or have a row with Oedipus - were also good if a bit too much like a parade. I realise it's the play's structure but I don't have to like it.
Actually there was something about the play that I didn't like: It is a mystery yet all the pieces of the puzzle felt pretty much in place well before the end. I know I'm familiar with the story from reading Robert Graves Greek Myths and I've seen the play before but I've never been so aware of the structure or the fact that most of the interesting stuff happens off-stage. Also I noticed that although the Riddle of the Sphinx is alluded to and the solution is given, the actual question is never mentioned.



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