Oedipus

Steven Berkoff, after Sophocles
Pleasance Courtyard

Nobody is quite like Steven Berkoff. His work is instantly recognisable and this modern version of Sophocles' tragedy bears all of the hallmarks.

For the most part, a cast of 11 group around a table, the drama carried forward by an eight-strong chorus dressed as Greek peasants today. They characteristically move in slow motion and into freeze-frame on a regular basis.

The octet provide support to Simon Merrells' handsome sharply besuited King. His story is one of the most familiar of all myths. Oedipus is the man who killed his father the King, married his mother and then suffered terribly for his unwitting sins.

Through around 1¾ hours, this regal man builds up his own backstory. His quest for knowledge is aided by a series of visitors. The first is sinister Creon, a proud man after his crown and played by Berkoff himself.

More strangely, Anita Dobson plays the role of Oedipus' mother-wife Jocasta the twice-Queen, always accompanied by lilting music and floating around like some Hindu Goddess whose arms can never sink below the horizontal.

The other key players are led by Alister O'Loughlin who steps out of the chorus to play damning, blind seer Tiresias, adding gravitas with his impossibly deep voice.

The style can take time to tune into but, once you do, the mixture of ancient and modern is affecting and effective, as always with this director.

Reviewer: Philip Fisher