EFR - Reviews of Oedipus: A Love Story

Oedipus: A Love Story

Wed 3rd – Tue 16th August 2011

reviews

Rebecca Tatlow

at 23:14 on 6th Aug 2011

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The gentle audience interaction before 'Oedipus: a love story' made it quite clear that this was not a traditional retelling of Sophocles' tragic masterpiece. The obvious innovation of this production is the flock of, luckily, rather talkative sheep who make up the chorus. The hand puppets which greet you upon arrival are not even attempting to be more than a cartoon representation of the animal and this sets the tone of a show which for the most part is childlike in it's simplicity. The bad are unrepentent and during the crossroad fight scene, when Oedipus unwittingly fulfils the first part of the famous prophesy that he will murder his father and marry his mother, I almost expected comic book explosions with 'Bam!' and 'Pow!' to appear.

The shepherd, sheep, Oedipus, all of his parents and the assorted other characters were portrayed by a versatile ensemble of four actors who juggled the diverse roles well. This was integral considering the lack of set and minimal costumes. The actress who embodied Jocasta showed range and subtlety as the frustrated Queen destroyed by a fate in which she didn't believe and the romance between her and Oedipus was sweet if not compelling. More interesting conceptually was the character of the Oracle who heard the future as snippets of well known tunes- of which my favourite was the use of the Spice Girls' line 'Mama I love you'.

The adaptation's rustic lack of poetry and simplicity fits well with the puppets and the company's desire to make the show enjoyable for the entire family. However, not quite in keeping this apparent aim was the character of the sphinx whose continuous references to sex might not be to everyone's tastes.

What could have been a surrealist reinterpretation of the tragedy was just a rather endearing retelling set in a hinterland of Greece where all the shepherds are called David and have Welsh accents. In fact, it should be noted that sheep aren't actually that incongruous in a play in which it is a shepherd's decision not to kill a baby that drives the plot. It almost makes ewe surprised that no one has done it before!

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Rachel Lovibond

at 09:34 on 7th Aug 2011

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Dumbshow’s performance ‘Oedipus: A Love Story’ is, essentially, the story of Sophocles’ ‘Oedipus’ narrated by four Welsh sheep and twisted into a partially comic, entirely inappropriate hour and a quarter. The audience was welcomed into the studio space at C venues by sheep puppets which came in turn to greet and briefly chat to each audience member. One of the sheep told me that it enjoyed ‘Coronation Street’. These puppets were controlled by the four actors who continued to act every role in the play in addition to the narrating sheep, although unfortunately this fast-paced character change meant that King Laius (portrayed as a biker) was wearing his sheepy ankle socks at every appearance. This damaged his thuggish image a little.

This was, however, one of the few genuinely funny occurrences in the play which didn’t teeter on the border of cringe-worthy. The drag-queen Sphinx character who wore a feather boa and leopard print heels while painfully labouring spit/swallow jokes seemed incongruous with the ‘family-friendly’ message advertised in the show’s flyer. Although it’s refreshing to see new and weird interpretations of very traditional plays, this production often pushed well past the boundaries of crude. Having said that, the line: ‘it’s time to do your mum’ did stick out as a personal favourite.

The most interesting part of the performance was the company’s interpretation of the oracle – a character presented as a radio DJ listening to an airwave which played songs to be deciphered into prophecies. Oedipus’s prophecy incorporated the Spice Girls’ hit ‘Mama’ along with a selection of other mother/murder themed music to very amusing effect. However, the performance's attempts to shift between comedy and moments of actual tragedy did not quite work and consequently it was difficult to take seriously any of the tragic scenes or appreciate moments as genuinely poignant.

This was an ambitious attempt to revive Sophocles’ tragedy, but Dumbshow’s performance caters only to very specific tastes and whilst some of the comedy produced genuine laughs from the audience, I found the entire production just a little too weird.

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