In Sophocles’ ancient Greek tragedy, in a new version by Frank McGuinness, the people of Thebes look to Oedipus to lift a terrible curse from them and their city. He consults the oracle and learns that he must root out the late king’s murderer. But his relentless interrogation of one man after another leads inexorably, and in the space of a single day, to his own savage conclusion.
The cast also features Patrick Brennan, Steven Page, Christopher Saul, David Shaw-Parker and Malcolm Storry. Oedipus is designed by Paul Brown, Kent’s long-term collaborator at the Almeida Theatre and, more recently, the Theatre Royal Haymarket season, with lighting by Neil Austin, sound by Paul Groothuis and music by Jonathan Dove.
Warm, if not rapturous, best surmises the overnight critical response. While Whatsonstage.com’s own Michael Coveney hailed Oedipus as “one of the best performances of Greek tragedy I have ever seen”, not all were in agreement. “An evening of many flaws” was the conclusion of some, with much of the criticism focussed on McGuinness’ translation – “an uneasy blend of stark poetry and … banal colloquialism”. However, there was ample praise for the performances, particularly Fiennes’ “superb” turn in the title role and Higgins’ chilling portrayal of Jocasta. And most critics applauded the play’s relevance, emphasised by Kent’s interpretation of the chorus as “resembling anguished city investors who have just learned that their hedge fund has gone bust”.
- by Theo Bosanquet