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Theatre review: Oedipus 
24th-Oct-2008 12:03 am
apprenticeavatar
A bit late with this review 'cause my computer's been being awkward, and only let me log on to the net as I was about to go to bed. But I'm on now so...

Nowadays Oedipus makes most people think of Freud, but it was of course originally the first of a loose trilogy by Sophocles (pictured - oh wait, that's the other one.) A tragedy based on the famous myth, which some people would see as just a story, but Freud saw as being ABSOLUTE GOSPEL TRUTH about every single person ever. Er. I think I may be getting sidetracked. That's what happens when I write reviews after midnight. (You also shouldn't feed me after midnight. Or get me wet or put me in sunlight.)

Aaaanyway, Frank McGuiness' translation for the National avoids the question of whether to call it Oedipus Tyrranos, Oedipus the King or Oedipus Rex by just calling it Oedipus. There's been some criticism of his lapses into rather banal modern-day colloquialism, but I quite liked the contrast of the poetic with the cliched. Oedipus is played by Ralph Fiennes, who probably shouldn't shave his head like he does here 'cause it makes it hard not to think "Voldemort." But as you'd expect he's very good, prowling around the huge Olivier stage which rotates almost too slowly to notice (it completes just one rotation in an hour and a half.) Jonathan Kent's production is in modern dress but fairly traditional in style, with no music and almost no sound effects, just the chorus of elders harmonising and sounding like a Welsh male voice choir. Paul Brown's simple set consists of a huge set of double doors, the entire stage made of rusted bronze. The effect is not unlike that of a modern-dress production taking place in one of the surviving ancient Greek theatres. Clare Higgins plays Jocasta and is also very good, and Alan Howard (who I don't usually like much) brings some wit to his infuriating Tiresias. It's a very dark, bloody production, and for the most part gripping, even if it's a less inventive effort than Women of Troy, the National's last production of a Greek classic.

Oedipus by Sophocles in a version by Frank McGuinness is booking until the 4th of January at the National Theatre's Olivier stage.
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