Oedipus, Pleasance Courtyard, Edinburgh
Thursday 18 August 2011
Steven Berkoff's utterly distinctive new version of the Sophocles tragedy is like a well-oiled machine grinding towards death and destruction. Berkoff himself plays Creon, taking control as the vehicle skids off the road and Oedipus loses the sat nav.
Blindness and post-apocalyptic fall-out are the great metaphorical themes, from the Greeks through King Lear to Beckett, and this show covers the waterfront in imagery and irony: the blind prophet Tiresias (Alister O'Loughlin) sees the future in a parched, sepulchral voice; and, seeing his own incestuous predicament, Simon Merrells's Oedipus gouges out his eyes with his mother Jocasta's decorative brooch.
Berkoff provides a mimetic scenario to the Sophoclean narrative, and a Zorba-like balalaika dance for the choric village elders. The city of Thebes is reduced to the microcosm of a close-knit fishing village.
Michael Vale's ochre landscape and Mike Robertson's forensic lighting create an intense crucible and Berkoff's Expressionistic style, and Cockney idiom, operate like a Greek mask, conveying the unbearable with stylised ghastliness.
Anita Dobson's tragedy queen of a Jocasta floats like an apparition, wrists gesticulating while the thrum of the inevitable gathers volume.
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