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 Photography: Laura Eastley
 

Oedipus + Antigonê

by Sophocles

Translated by Dudley Fitts and Robert Fitzgerald

Adapted and directed by Kelly Wilson

Music by Karlin Love

28-31 October, 2020

Earl Arts Centre, Launceston, Tasmania, Australia 

Performance rights by permission of The Estate of Robert Fitzgerald

 

Cast (in order of appearance):

JOCASTA, wife of Oedipus / Chorus........................................................................................Janice Molineux

OEDIPUS, doctor and leader of Thebes.............................................................................................Matt Taylor

CREONA, sister of Jocasta, mother of Haimon, career politician.....................................................Anne Riley

ANTIGONÊ, daughter of Oedipus and Jocasta / Chorus......................................................Olivia Brodzinski

PERSONAL ASSISTANT, secretary for Creona.......................................................................Phoebe Wheatley

ISMENÊ, daughter of Oedipus and Jocasta / Chorus.........................................................Melanie Grossman

Chorus / Understudy...................................................................................................................Naomi Leighton

SENTRY, a security guard.......................................................................................................................Lee Brient

HAIMON, son of Creona............................................................................................................Nathaniel Wood

TEIRESIAS, a blind seer / CHAUFFEUR / Chorus..............................................................................Aaron Beck

PROBATE LAWYER / Chorus......................................................................................................Robbie Bleakley

 

Directorial Interpretation:

In this production, the narrative action, which originally took place in ancient Greece, is advanced to the year 2040. Thebes is now a modern city recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic. King Oedipus has been transformed into a doctor who has been a compassionate and fair leader of Thebes since he arrived twenty years ago, when the perpetrator known as ‘The Sphinx’ played a major role in the spread of the virus that Oedipus eventually eradicated. In a desperate hope to maintain health and prosperity in their community, the Theban people have resumed their worship of the gods of ancient Greece. Jocasta assists her husband Oedipus in running a doctor’s surgery from an annex of their own home as they work to continue Thebes’ recovery. 

 

However, it seems there has been another outbreak of plague: crops are failing, cattle are sick, babies are stillborn and people are dying from unknown causes. Oedipus calls upon the blind seer, Teiresias, to discover the cause of the pestilence and to determine what the gods would have them do in order to survive. When Teiresias finally meets with Oedipus, his prophesy sets in motion a series of events that will forever change the lives of his wife, Jocasta; his sister-in-law, Creona; his nephew, Haimon; and his children, Polyneicês, Eteoclês, Ismenê and Antigonê.

 

This production is notable in its reimagining of Oedipus as a doctor and its portrayal of Creon as a woman, known as Creona, played by the same actor in both Oedipus and Antigonê. The audience witnesses the agony that befalls a well-meaning, yet naïve, doctor who assumes that the cause of his city’s current suffering has nothing to do with himself. Likewise, Creona, a career politician, leads Thebes with the best of intentions, but her decisions and actions demonstrate the pride and misplaced idealism that parallels some of the problems that plague politics today. As the result of these adaptations, the thematic content of the production produces a chilling modern significance.

Review of Oedipus + Antigonê by Jeff Hockley:

 ‘The briefest way is best in the way of sorrows’, says one of the characters in Adaptivity Theatre Company’s presentation of Oedipus + Antigone. Ironically, it’s practically the last line of a very long performance. These two plays (of three) by Sophocles, perhaps the greatest of the ancient tragedies, are in no way brief, but they are full of sorrow. The story line is well known and is so universal that I have even seen the plays adapted to film, opera, oratorio, straight theatre and ballet. The stories themselves are, as we know, full of tragedy, but they really only work if there is good story telling, and regrettably this production doesn’t always have it. It takes a brave director and cast to tackle epic speeches in heightened language, complex characterisation, and the skill to define the style of Greek theatre in its original context but with a modern translation.

 

That said, when all the theatre gods are aligned the production is very good indeed. When they are at their best, Matt Taylor, Anne Riley, Olivia Brodzinski and Robbie Bleakley ramp up the emotional intensity to thrilling heights. The collective chorus respond appropriately. It’s only when they are given individual lines that their force is let down by some poor acting choices. There are big character and plot issues in the plays and to hang between hope and fear throughout is a big task. When it happens there is a definite collective urgency.

 

Karlin Love’s original music transforms some of Sophocles’ choral odes into breathtaking moments of rare beauty.

 

Kelly Wilson’s adaptation and artistic direction is full of discovery and she presents some bold statements in her interpretation. The Oedipus play is presented in a modern staging whereas the Antigone play is far more stylized, which make it seem like two separate works rather than a package deal. For all that, her staging of the plays in a near-future world still makes it easy to see parallels with states, premiers, politicians and prime ministers; with church and state; with corporate power struggles, and with issues plaguing contemporary society. 

 

The common Greek maxim that ‘no man should be considered fortunate until he is dead’ shouldn’t deter you from seeing these plays, filled as they are with curses, lamentations, punishments, fatal attractions and a mounting toll of bodies. The ensemble cast will effortlessly guide you through the despair, and you will have a richer theatrical experience than this paragraph seems to imply.

 

Congratulations to Adaptivity Theatre Company for daring to stage these classic works, and for doing it at a time when audience numbers are reduced by social distancing and the smell of pandemic wafts through real life as much as in the plays.

 

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