It had to happen sooner or later, of course. Spymonkey have grasped the slippery pole of satirising the classics once again, and this time they’ve gone back to basics. To ancient Greek legend and the dramas of Sophocles for the tragedy of Oedipus to be exact. He’s the man who, while attempting to outrun the gods’ curse, manages to kill his father, marry his mother and sire four children with her.
Needless to say, Carl Grose’s script and Emma Rice’s direction is far from doom and gloom, until right at the end when the audience’s laughter suddenly acquires a sharp note, one almost of hysteria. Lucy Bradridge’s fantasy costumes (anarchic crossed with archaic) and Michael Vale’s white set (panels and step ladders) are a joy – far more elaborate than those of previous productions.
The cast of four have to be quick-change artists, taking on many roles. Petra Massey, not a sphinx to meddle with, also plays Jocasta. Stephan Kreiss is Oedipus, Toby Park is Tiresias and assorted oracles with Aitor Basauri as King Laius, who precipitates the whole train of events with a god-displeasing act of violence, and two shepherds (wondrous costumes in all these cases).
It is all very clever, and especially funny if you’re reasonably familiar with the sources. It could, however, do with a little judicious pruning. There’s no getting away from the fact that the culmination of the drama – when, finally understanding the enormity of what they’ve done (albeit unwittingly), Jocasta hangs herself and Oedipus puts out his own eyes – fails to be anything other than horrifically tragic. Scarlet ribbons cascading from a head and puppet arms dangling from a rung may be symbolic. But I’m not sure that they add up to catharsis.