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Festival Review: Oedipus ***

Michael Cox reviews a production that's easy to admire but is emotionally distant.

Oedipus is very clever. More of an ‘inspired by’ type of production rather than a faithful retelling of the seminal Greek tragedy, Robert Icke’s production takes Sophocles’ original and gives it a creative blend with modern society’s obsession with fake news and tabloid.

The audience is presented with posters that harken back to Obama’s ‘Hope’ image and a bright red countdown clock—a bright future might be promised but doom is imminent. Oedipus is a modern politician who has run a campaign to (finally) officially replace the dead king Laius—the former husband of his wife. The country is ‘sick’ and he wants to heal it with the truth, which means opening up the investigation into the unsolved murder if he wins the election. But why are his wife and brother-in-law not keen on this?

Icke’s production has much to admire. The staging is fluid, and there is a frantic pace to everything. We are presented with a family with secrets—secrets that other members seem to know about but are happy to keep hidden. The whole production is presented as a political thriller, and on that front it is highly successful.

But within all of the cleverness and intrigue is a gaping hole: emotion. The acting is terrific across the board, and yet there isn’t one character who is empathetic in the slightest. Even when the major falls from grace happen, they occur with emotional distance.

All of which means this Oedipus works on an intellectual level but fails to engage on an emotional one. It’s easy to admire but nearly impossible to care about.

Run ended.

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