Directed by Martin Berry, Lakeside Arts and Nottingham New Theatre throw themselves headlong into the telling of Steven Berkoff’s Oedipus (after Sophocles). The story of Oedipus is a tragedy – there are killings galore, there is the self blinding of Oedipus, there is his incestuous relationship with his mother Jocasta. The Greek Gods ain’t happy and the Oracle at Delphi backs up dire warnings given out by the blind prophet Tiresias. All this might lead one to believe that one is in for an evening of unremitting doom and gloom. Not so.
This lively production played out by a mixed sex cast of thirteen students at Nottingham University is a terrific interpretation that relies very much on humour to get the story across. In a sense this reviewer was reminded of his youth watching productions of Godspell where the story of the last days of Christ is demonstrated with a high degree of playfulness right until the grisly end.
As the short one act play (about an hour in the playing) begins we are quickly made aware that Oedipus is a shared role by many of the cast and in being so he becomes a sort of lofty everyman. As the cast are predominantly female one could also consider Oedipus to be every woman too.
Much use is made of direct conversations with the audience and Berkoff’s text coupled with Martin Berry’s sterling direction constantly engages. The chorus work is very tight and generally the vocalisation from all of the cast is clear and sharp. At times the dialogue becomes deliberately fast but never so over hasty that it lacks cohesion. It is very funny in parts. There is live music and cast generated special effects and Jocasta’s hanging and the blinding scenes towards the play’s finale are genuinely chilling. The set design by Lauren Connelly allows the actors to be constantly creative with their playing levels and they make terrific use of the spaces and microphone techniques.
Built into the story are human questions about the nature of controlling or even altering one’s destiny and the suggestion that Sophocles thought that a fatalistic society is doomed to fail. As director Martin Berry says in the programme “It is a question that underpins humanity, philosophy and religion. No wonder this amazing play has survived 2500 years.”
Suitable ages 14+
Runs at Lakeside Arts until Sat 23rd April.
Reviewer: Phil Lowe