Let the day
What the night
Shoot an arrow of hope
Into the heart
Of this broken city
The Abbey Theatre presents, as part of the Dublin Theatre Festival, Sophocles’ Oedipus in a new version by director Wayne Jordan with an original score by Tom Lane.
Set in the city of Thebes, a plague is spreading across the land and the citizens turn to King Oedipus for help. A tale filled with political drama, mystery, superstition and downfall, it is presented on a simple stage and in a most effortless and beautiful fashion.
A basic set comprising of a wooden table and a sprawl of chairs, utilised and manipulated expertly throughout, the performance by the cast to create scenes in the blink of an eye. The only props at any are a jug with a glass or Oedipus’ crown and later, a dish of water. It couldn’t be any more pared back.
Modern dress brings home to the audience that the themes of the story are still relevant to life today. The use of upstage lighting draws you right into the play, dim lights raising gradually to floodlight brightness on the audience for we too are there to lay judgement on the unfortunate king.
The haunting melodies of the chorus of citizens provide keynotes to the production throughout. Verses sung together highlight the unity of the people but, as the descent of the king begins to unfurl, the voices become disjointed, eerie, and accusing, thus instilling a feeling of unease in the audience who know what’s coming.
Barry John O’Connor’s portrayal of Oedipus is simply stunning. He owns the stage and, in turn, the audience with his vibrant and heart-wrenching performance. You ache for the story to change as you watch it. His relationship with Fiona Bell’s Jocasta is natural, strong and ultimately induces the discomfort we are meant to feel.
‘The Stranger’, expertly performed by Ronan Leahy, injects comedy into the story and is the significant catalyst to Oedipus’ great downfall.
“Gods, we have reached the punchline.”
From the set design and the use of upstage lighting to the performance of each and every cast member, this production can be deemed a triumph. A story so often told, but revived as a pragmatic, compelling adaption for a modern audience.
In short, you are doing yourself a disservice by not seeing this production.
Oedipus runs in the Abbey Theatre until the 31st October with tickets from €13 – €45.
[Images: The Abbey Theatre]