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Festival Review: Greek ***

Ashling Findlay-Carroll reviews 'a punk opera' version of a classic tale.

The huge, stark white flat built on a stage extension, which greets us upon entry to the auditorium, immediately suggests that this version of the Greek tragedy, Oedipus, is going to take us out of a traditional opera setting.

Overall, the piece has a very Brechtian feel to it, working to alienate and preventing the audience from getting emotionally involved with characters, but without impinging on entertainment.

The small cast of four play multiple parts, often completing full costume changes within impossible time frames—many times within a scene—to much comical effect. The comedy that they have found within this piece is a real triumph and is often created by the over-exaggerated use of stereotypes throughout. Swearing is prolific, and contemporary dress, physicality and mannerisms are used throughout.

The orchestra sit at eye level and are as much of the performance visually as aurally, becoming characters within the piece at key points; a particular highlight being when they stand up to reveal they are riot police, complete with shields which are then used as percussion.

The imposing flat serves as a screen for projections that provides greater depth into the story and occasional political commentary alongside subtitles, which, whilst they aren't strictly necessary, support the action and help to hammer the points home. Throughout the piece the flat revolves to show the passing of time and change of locations, and the lighting works beautifully to transform the otherwise simple set to take us to the various places and atmospheres within the story and complimenting the action.

The moments of spoken word have impact, and the cast are dynamic throughout, transitioning between singing and speaking with ease. Recognition must go to Alex Otterburn who plays the lead role, narrating the tale directly to the audience and leading the ensemble with confidence.

The ending is not the traditional ending to the Oedipus tale, but then, very little is traditional about this piece, which has been referred to as "punk opera". It stays true to the ideas of punk, subverting preconceptions of opera and reinventing this story with vigour and punch.

Greek was performed at part of this year’s Edinburgh International Festival. Its run has concluded.

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