The Kingdom, Soho Theatre, London

4.00

 

Three Irishmen in dusty suits – one young, one old, one middle-aged – hack at the rocks and shovel away the pieces on a stark building site. And as they dig, they buttonhole us with tales that gradually merge into one narrative whose lineaments begin to evince a disturbing familiarity.

Premiered in a fiercely intense and mountingly haunting production by Lucy Pitman-Wallace, Colin Teevan's new play is a powerful, partially persuasive transposition of the Oedipus myth to the world of Irish migrant workers in London during the diaspora of the second half of the twentieth century. 

The experience of exile and the pattern of moving from rags to riches and back again are the features that bind this free re-working, written with a sinewy, musical eloquence, to the ancient Greek original. 

The Sophoclean tragedy is inexorably linear as the unwitting Oedipus conducts an investigation into a crime of which he will turn out to be the cursed perpetrator. What gives this version its terrible fascination is the ironic way it interweaves and antiphonally counterpoints the story of the protagonist's rise with the narrative of his downfall and uses dogged digging as a metaphor for the unearthing of horrific truths. 

Anthony Delaney is engagingly cocky as the Young Man who flees a harsh Christian foster home in Ireland and with witty cunning makes a successful take-over bid for a London building firm owned by a corrupt John Bull proprietor.

His freshness and amused idealism are in striking contrast with the escalating panic of Owen O'Neill as his rattled middle-aged self struggling to cope with the onslaught of uncovered secrets about a tinker's curse on a rapist Irish tyrant and the dread consequences of usurping the role of Fate with the toss of a coin.  

The stakes are inevitably lower (the well-being of a whole city is not in jeopardy) and the fit sometimes feels awkward. But there are also some lovely things, such as having the protagonist and the unseen Jocasta meet for the first time by the shrine to Our Lady in the convent where, it turns out, she found refuge after being banished from Ireland by the abusive father whose son she had borne. 

Tellingly, it's in this now demolished and de-sanctified site that the old, blinded Oedipus-figure (excellent Gary Lilburn) seeks sanctuary at the end of a play that movingly presents Irishness as the state of being nowhere at home.   

To Nov 17; 0207 478 0100

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Pointless host Alexander Armstrong will voice Danger Mouse on CBBC

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell dismissed the controversy surrounding

music
Arts and Entertainment
Jack Huston is the new Ben-Hur

film
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Cara Delevingne modelling

film
Arts and Entertainment
Emma Thompson and Bryn Terfel are bringing Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street to the London Coliseum

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Robin Thicke's video for 'Blurred Lines' has been criticised for condoning rape

Robin Thicke admits he didn't write 'Blurred Lines'

music
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'

film
Arts and Entertainment
Matt Damon as Jason Bourne in The Bourne Ultimatum (2007)

film
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black

Review: Cilla, ITV TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Tom Hardy stars with Cillian Murphy in Peaky Blinders II

TV
Arts and Entertainment

art
Arts and Entertainment
Keira Knightley and Benedict Cumberbatch star in the Alan Turing biopic The Imitation Game

film
Arts and Entertainment
Kanye West is on his 'Yeezus' tour at the moment

Music
Arts and Entertainment
Rob James-Collier, who plays under-butler Thomas Barrow, admitted to suffering sleepless nights over the Series 5 script

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence star in new film 'Serena'

film
Arts and Entertainment
Some might argue that a fleeting moment in the actor’s scintillating, silver-tongued company is worth every penny.

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Colin Firth stars as master magician Stanley Crawford in Woody Allen's 'Magic in the Moonlight'

film
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

    A shot in the dark

    Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
    His life, the universe and everything

    His life, the universe and everything

    New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
    Reach for the skies

    Reach for the skies

    From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
    These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

    12 best hotel spas in the UK

    Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
    These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

    Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

    Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
    Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

    Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

    His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
    'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

    'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

    Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
    Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

    Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

    The Imitation Game, film review
    England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

    England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

    Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
    Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

    Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

    Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
    ‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

    ‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

    Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week