Steven Berkoff always attracts a strong Edinburgh following, and the crowds are going wild for his distinctly powerful new version of Oedipus – seen earlier this year at the Liverpool and Nottingham Playhouses -- in the big Pleasance Grand behind the Courtyard.
It’s designed and lit (by Michael Vale and Mike Robertson) to the highest standards, and transfers Sophocles’s Thebes to a Cockney Greek village of sand and rocky vistas, flat caps and waistcoats, high flown rhetoric and down home rhyming doggerel and slang.
And Berkoff, who plays a swaggering, power-crazy capo called Creon, provides one of his most impressive performances in a long while, in wonderful defiance of his own advancing years.
The chorus of elders strike poses of horror and amazement as if computer-programmed, and this works very well at setting the grim scenario in tragic relief.
Simon Merrells, Berkoff’s Brando in On the Waterfront, is a Berkoff facsimile in his own right, and is a suitably stunned Oedipus when he discovers the unlikely truth.
Anita Dobson’s Jocasta, hair piled high and silken-robed, is a glamorous siren, wafting through disaster, while Alister O'Loughlin makes a mark as a husky-voiced Tiresias, leaning on a long staff.
But it’s the organic, mimetic fluency of the show that impresses most, especially in a fringe festival where physical discipline and Expressionism are rarely seen in comedy or drama. That’s what the young audience loves.