Oedipus Retold at the Tristan Bates Theatre
Jeremy Kingston’s Oedipus Retold is a double bill, including two complementary adaptations of Sophocles’ classic Oedipus Rex. The first, Oedipus the King, is a traditional retelling, following the conventional structure of the Greek tragedy. The second, Oedipus at the Crossroads, is a more alternative narrative, which follows a witty and thought-provoking turn of the classic plot, in which Oedipus and his father’s meeting provokes a philosophical conversation, rather than an impassioned murder, rather reminiscent of Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot.
The same cast is used for both performances and are strong across the board and highly complementary as a group. Tom Shepherd’s performance as Oedipus in both adaptations is particularly refreshing, each one offering a new facet to the well-recognised character. Each of the plays presents a new take on the tale, and the protagonist is no exception.
The set is incredibly well-employed, but the wall of white dramatic masks backlit with white LEDs really stole the show, not only providing dramatic mood lighting and an impactful visual, but also as a visual special effect as the all-seeing eyes of the fates and a dramatically timed lightning strike. Perfectly simple and effective, the set was pleasantly necessary and visually stunning.
From start to finish this production is thoughtful, beautiful, and funny, truly drawing on the glorious irony of Sophocles’ work and navigating it and its characters. The audience is shown two very distinct versions of Oedipus, one blinded by determination, to the point of cruelty, struck down by the gods in his staunch disbelief, the other far more aware and philosophical, less tragic in character, but still as sceptical of society’s belief system. A true exploration this production is beautifully insightful, with each adaptation complementing the other. Not just for the avid classicist, this production is a delight through and through.
Witty, intelligent, and refreshing, Jeremy Kingston’s retelling of this Greek tragedy is exploratory and clever, brilliantly delivered by a talented cast and aesthetically smart throughout. It serves to prove that a classic does not have to be tired.
Oedipus Retold is at the Tristan Bates Theatre until 8th February. For further information or to book visit the theatre’s website here.