Two weeks ago, I went to see Oedipus at the Lyric Theatre. As noted in a previous post, the show was produced by 17-19 year olds working with the Lyric team. As we went into the studio, which looked amazing set up in traverse style, I noted the modern sofas which made my heart sink.
But I shouldn't have worried, these kids pulled it off. The actors were all in formal suits, at first looking like they were in the Apprentice, but when Oedipus arrives complete with secret service guards, his own sharp suit and long speech, it's clear that this Oedipus has been based on the US President. The style works surprisingly well.
There were some brilliant performances throughout the play, particularly by Creon, the Messenger and Oedipus, but the actors were all good. The chorus sometimes on stage, sometimes on screen were strong. I particularly liked how the people heard the news of Oedipus' sins on a TV screen, just as the world heard the news of Bill Clinton's incident with Monica Lewinsky. The lighting design really complemented the projection concept, the lights muted in shades of black and white until the news of Jocasta's death when slashes of red appeared on the screen. This reminded me of black, white and red film posters such as Sin City or the Godfather or TV advertising for True Blood. This dramatic design only accented the tragedy of the awful events and underlined Oedipus' fate in blood for all to see.
It was great to see a sold out audience filled with friends and family of the young cast. I love that all these people have been introduced to Greek mythology in such an accessible way. I love that a play written 2,500 years ago can have such resonance now. I was not the only person in the audience holding back tears. The childrens' pain at losing their father ensures that the tragedy of Oedipus is felt by all. If you don't know Sophocles' story of Oedipus the King you can download it here http://classics.mit.edu/Sophocles/oedipus.html
Director Philip Crawford is a man of many talents, and I hope the Lyric realise how lucky they are to have him. Clearly an amazing Director drawing the best out in young actors, he also brought the RSC Open Stages project to NI, allowing amateur companies the opportunity to compete to perform in Stratford. I know first-hand what an amazing teacher he is, as he taught me GCSE Biology in school quite a few years ago, and he alone is the reason I kept it on at A level. He also directed one of Northern Ireland's 5 star shows just finished at the Edinburgh Fringe, Happenstance's the Boat Factory starting Dan Gordon and Michael Condron.
I'd love to see a performance of Sophocles' Elektra, Aristophanes' Lysistrata or Aeschylus' The Persians in the Lyric. (Hint Hint)