Ticketmaster Summer in Stages

Oedipus Retold

Jeremy Kingston
Jane Nightwork Productions
Tristan Bates Theatre

Steve Watts, Judi Scott, Tom Shepherd, Luke Hornsby-Smith
Luke Hornsby-Smith, Judi Scott, Clare Cameron, Tom Shepherd

I must confess that Greek mythology does not usually feature on my interest list. Having never seen nor read the story my knowledge of Oedipus is pretty rudimentary and in all honesty, I was dreading it. Thankfully, Jeremy Kingston’s crisp, clean writing provides a great introduction to this classic tale, making it accessible to all.

Kingston’s double bill presents two different interpretations of the Oedipus myth that compliment each other to create an incredibly satisfying evening of theatre.

First up is Oedipus The King: Sophocles’s story of a man destined to murder his father and marry his mother. This is followed by Kingston’s original work Oedipus at the Crossroads, which offers an alternative spin on proceedings.

There’s great versatility in Tom Shepherd’s controlled, commanding and witty performance in the title role—he has great presence and is easily the stand-out. Luke Hornsby-Smith and Richard Earthy are also worthy of mention in their supporting roles.

Oedipus Retold is certainly not without issues, however. Sadly, Jack Klaff’s erratic and camp Laius is rather frustrating and doesn’t really work for the piece.

I’m not entirely convinced by Faye Bradley’s design either, for, although interesting, it isn’t exactly clear what the back wall of 157 masks represents—tragedy and comedy masks? The use of modern dress in Oedipus the King also doesn’t seem particularly relevant. Perhaps director Robert Gillespie is trying to hint at the timelessness of the piece?

Moreover, the lighting is frankly terrible and at certain moments the actors’ faces are in complete shadow—it seemed as if the design was being made up on the spot.

Despite these niggles, I found myself deeply engrossed in the actual story—largely thanks to Kingston’s writing and Shepherd’s performance. The first play is gripping as it slowly builds to its climax, whilst the latter is doused with humour and brilliantly points to the corruption of religious institutions.

It is unfortunate that there were more people in the cast than in the audience for Oedipus Retold definitely deserves to be seen.

Reviewer: Sean Brooks