Table Manners – November 2008

8/10

By Alan Ayckbourn

Directed by Matthew Warchus

Venue: Old Vic Theatre

Date: Wednesday 26th November 2008

This is the middle play in the trilogy, in the sense that the overall action begins in the garden, the next earliest scene is in the dining room, while the sitting room kicks off last. It’s slightly darker in tone than the sitting room; this is where we get to see each character at their worst, and also where we get the revelations about each woman’s relationship with her man which make sense of Norman’s conquests. We do also get to hear the men’s side of things, too, and we can see for ourselves that Sarah and Ruth are no picnic, but as they’re the ones Norman is targeting, I reckon it’s natural to have a bit more sympathy for them. He certainly does.

He also gets a punch on the jaw during dinner, courtesy of man-mouse Tom, who finally stands up for Annie only to find that Norman was actually insulting his own wife Ruth. Tom’s apologetic “Oh, that’s rather different” got a huge laugh, while the punch itself got a smattering of applause.

The parts were better balanced this time, as Ruth turns up during the second scene, and I love the way Ayckbourn keeps giving us twist after twist. We were in the same seats as before, and the view was still pretty good, though I was nearly blinded by one of the spotlights which came on for several minutes while one of the characters was centre front, if there can be such a thing with theatre in the round. Fortunately it wasn’t on for long, but it was a real nuisance while it was.

The performances were all good again, and if I single out Amanda Root for special praise it’s only because her character, Sarah, has so much more to do in this play, and she handled the twists and turns, the gentle gradients and whiplash-inducing switchbacks with impeccable mastery. Even seeing her from the back, there were some wonderful expressions on her face! She went from cheerful and bubbly (or irritating, as her husband might call it), to worried, to censorious, to nervous, to hysterical, to unhappy, to hopeful but wary, to determined, to cheerful again, all in the space of two and a half hours and with a few other ports of call along the way. Wonderful.

The set was much simpler this time. Still the big jammy dodger effect, but the room itself had only a small storage unit for cutlery, etc., a fireplace, a low stool, and the long dining table with only four chairs, which was never going to be big enough to sit those people round it without open warfare. The entrance from the house was far left from where we sat, the door to garden was to our right. And it’s the garden scenes we’re looking forward to next.

© 2008 Sheila Evans at ilovetheatre.me

The Mikado – November 2008

8/10

By Gilbert and Sullivan

Directed by Peter Mulloy

Carla Rosa Company

Venue: Chichester Festival Theatre

Date: Saturday 22nd November 2008

I’m keener on G&S than Steve, but even so he enjoyed himself almost as much as I did tonight. This was a splendid production, and it was such a joy to hear every word clearly, both spoken and sung.

The set design and costumes were from the original production, as far as could be determined – the director had worked on Topsy-Turvy, the film about G&S doing The Mikado over a century ago. They worked well for me; they were very colourful, and set the scene beautifully. There was a covered bridge at the back, and a painted backdrop with cherry blossom and some tree trunks, but otherwise the stage was pretty bare, although they did bring on the occasional stool. The patter songs had been cleverly updated, so the “little list” included people using mobile phones during the show, and bankers with obscene bonuses and the like. The “punishments” were now applied to a fresh range of people; I think the judges in Strictly Come Dancing came in for some stick, but I don’t remember all the details.

The performances were very good, and not just in the diction department. Nichola McAuliffe made a very good Katisha, with lots of variation in her expression, and a nice line in eyeing up any good looking young man who happened to be in the vicinity. Her bloodthirstiness was very evident; she stopped reading the fatal scroll to listen to the blow-by-blow account of the execution. I found her songs in the first half quite moving, as she really does express her sense of loss very well, but she was also good in the funny bits too. When the Mikado is getting the chorus to sing along to his litany of horrible punishments, she’s been offering him sake instead, but even she has to join in at the end.

Sylvester McCoy was very entertaining as the Mikado himself. Dressed in a preposterous costume, with a high-rise hat, he made the most of his time on stage to give us every conceivable comic grimace and gesture that he could (and he knows quite a few). He played with his tassel, he used his fan to good effect, and the songs also worked well. He found the name of the town, Titipu, totally hilarious (titty-pooh), and there were one or two other smutty bits I don’t remember seeing before, but they worked well for me tonight.

Gareth Jones as Pooh-Bah was suitably grave and haughty, with a hand ever ready for the pecuniary insult. Ko-Ko used a bit of string to get back one of the purses he handed over, and that was good fun. Pooh-Bah’s description of the decapitated head bowing to him was wonderfully ludicrous. Michael Kerry as Pish-Tush was very good. He was present during the glee See how the fates their gifts allot, and stood in very nicely for ‘B’. Ivan Shape as Nanki-Poo was fine, particularly in his opening number, when he had to win over the Titipu locals with his songs. He was well matched with Gillian Ramm as Yum-Yum, who has a lovely voice, and carried off the artless vanity of the part to perfection. Victoria Ward played Pitti-Sing, and did another fine job, with some fun interplay between her and Pish-Tush during the madrigal Brightly dawns our wedding day. I always feel sorry for Peep-Bo, who has so little to do despite being one of the three little maids.

The individual performance of the night, just shading the others, was Fenton Gray as Ko-Ko. He was superb, with lots of business that added to the fun. He did the patter song extremely well, and he was always a welcome presence on the stage. Even so, my enjoyment was down to the total impact of all these performances, and I was so happy to see a good G&S production again. I hope they’ll do some more.

© 2008 Sheila Evans at ilovetheatre.me

The Holly And The Ivy – November 2008

5/10

By Wynyard Browne

Directed by Michael Lunney

Company: Middle Ground

Venue: Yvonne Arnaud Theatre

Date: Friday 21st November 2011

This was a revival of an earlier Middle Ground touring production which we’d seen at the Connaught several years ago. We’d enjoyed the previous performance well enough, and tonight was a similar story.

The set was as before. A large sitting room with a sofa and chairs, a window at the back showing us the local church, doors off back right (vicar’s study), back left (kitchen and dining room), and an entrance lobby front left, with access to the stairs. The time is 1947, Christmas Eve, so there’s a Christmas tree and some decorations.

When the play starts, Jenny is finishing the decorating, but is interrupted by her friend, David, and her father the vicar, who needs to get to a school for some pre-Christmas event. From these conversations we learn that a group of people are expected for Christmas, including a couple of aunts. David wants Jenny to come away with him when he leaves for South America at the end of January, but she feels she can’t leave her father. There’s another sister, Margaret, who could come home and look after him, but it seems to be generally accepted in the family that that’s not going to happen. Jenny’s brother Michael arrives unexpectedly – he’s doing his National Service and managed to wangle some leave by making out it could be his last Christmas with his father – and he helps David to decorate the room while Jenny gets on with the dinner.     Then the aunts arrive, and they’re well worth the price of admission. Aunt Bridget is Irish, the vicar’s sister, I assume, as he’s also Irish, and she’s as outspoken as you could wish for. Aunt Lydia was presumably married to Bridget’s other brother, long since dead, but she’s still part of the family. Both women have all the instincts of the most intuitive vulture, and they soon figure out that David has sort of proposed to Jenny. So their next task is to arrange for a happy ending by getting Margaret to take over the job of caring for her father so that Jenny can get away with her young man. Aside from all this, aunt Lydia has a nice line in offering to help, but sinking happily back into the sofa when the offer is turned down, while Bridget insists on sitting in her preferred spot on the sofa, and she only has to stand and look, for others to realise their mistake and move. They were very good fun.

A chap called Richard turned up – Margaret’s godfather, otherwise not sure what his connection with the family was – but he hadn’t brought Margaret with him from London. She had the flu and couldn’t come. Nevertheless she turns up shortly afterwards, and appears to be the career woman type; smart suit, acts superior, and appears rather unemotional. During a chat with her sister, which starts out as a confrontation and ends up as a heart-to-heart, she confesses that she’d had a child by an American soldier she’d fallen in love with during the war. The soldier died, and after a few years the child also died, of meningitis. As she was an unmarried mother, she felt she couldn’t tell their father, and so she rarely came to visit. Her problem now is that she can’t face the prospect of coming back to stay with her father and living a lie for the rest of her life.

After dinner, Margaret and Michael head off for the cinema, while the others sit around and ‘chat’. Lydia and Bridget have decided that for Jenny to find happiness, the vicar will have to retire. He’s not keen on that idea, so they have to tell him about Jenny’s situation. To add to his troubles, Michael and Margaret come home well sozzled; she faints and is taken up to bed. Michael tries to cover it up, but it’s no good. He makes some comment about nobody being able to tell the vicar anything, and also heads for bed.

The next day, Christmas, brings more revelations. The vicar persuades Michael to reveal all he knows (Margaret spilled the beans to him the night before in the pub), and so the scene is set for the final showdown between father and daughter. It goes quite well, remarkably. Since he already knows the story, it’s more a case of sorting out their relationship. It’s clear that personal relationships have never been his strong suit, and he’s aware that his parishioners don’t get as much pastoral care from him as he feels he should have been giving. With Margaret on the point of leaving (they had trains on Christmas day back then!), he finally manages to connect with her, and for the first time in their lives, they actually talk to each other like normal human beings. This changes her attitude so much that she’s quite happy to stay now and take care of the old man, and when David turns up to get Jenny’s final answer, she can give him the ‘yes’ they both wanted.

It’s an interesting play, though not the best written. The dialogue is stilted at times, and the structure feels unbalanced; we get to know Jenny so much more than Margaret, yet Margaret and her experiences are really the key to the whole piece. The vicar’s attitudes are also very important, but again I don’t feel they come across strongly enough for the final confrontation to be as moving as it could have been. I was very moved to realise that this man has only just found out that he had a grandchild and lost it as well, but this was only a passing thought, when it could have been more prominent. The play is still enjoyable, but not as strong as some.

In terms of the performances, the aunts and cousin Richard (now I’ve checked the program I know how he fits in) were the strongest and most entertaining. The others were mostly fine, but Philip Madoc, fine actor though he is, didn’t seem able to get the lines across clearly in the Irish accent he was putting on. Not that there was anything wrong with his accent as such, though at times I sensed the lilting Welsh straining to burst through, but his delivery was so abrupt that I couldn’t distinguish the words. When he spoke more slowly, as he did after the final scene with Margaret, it was fine. It’s always a shame to lose so much dialogue, and I would like to see this play sometime with the father’s part more strongly cast, though as it’s not the greatest play I’m not sure who would put that on. So on the whole I enjoyed the evening, our last but one up at Guildford this year.

© 2008 Sheila Evans at ilovetheatre.me

Mountain Hotel – November 2008

6/10

By Vaclav Havel, translated by Jitka Martinova

Directed by Sam Walters

Venue: Orange Tree Theatre

Date: Thursday 20th November 2008

This set was more complicated than the first: three cast iron style patio tables with matching chairs (very lightweight – I checked) on three sides. A wooden bench with metal ends sat across the far left entranceway, and a picnic rug filled the rest of the space. There was a thermos flask and some odds and ends (sun tan lotion, hair gel, razor) by the rug.  A canopy had been put up over the entrance far right from us.

Mind you, the set was a lot less complicated than the play. Surreal doesn’t begin to cover it. The same scene kept repeating, many characters shifted and changed, different stories were presented to us, and the whole performance became like a merry-go-round, with the horses spinning faster and faster until we were almost dizzy with multiple possibilities. Despite this, or perhaps because of it, I found it enjoyable and interesting to watch.

To begin with, various actors came on, stood in their positions, and then sat down. The lights were partly up for this. There was also some music playing, and that was used each time the scene changed. The actors went through the same routine for each scene change as well, with most of them changing their positions. Initially, there was a man, Kubik (Stuart Fox), seated with his back to us, just to our left. To his left, a woman, Rachel (Paula Stockbridge), was sitting at the far table, knitting. I confess to being curious about what she was knitting, and occasionally my thoughts were more on that than the play. However, along from her, on the bench, sat Orlov (James Greene), while Pechar (Paul O’Mahony) sat on the picnic rug, sunning himself. To our right, sitting alone at his table, was Kotrba (David Antrobus), who never spoke, and rarely got involved with anyone else. There’s also Tetz (Mike Sengelow), who dashes on, catching a ball, the sporty type, and who sits down next to one of the characters, Orlov I think first time round.

Other characters come and go. Liza (Esther Ruth Elliot) dashes on and off stage regularly. She’s dressed up in a fancy frock, carrying some flowers, and looking a bit distracted. Orlov usually tries to intercept her, insisting that they had a relationship many years ago in Paris, which she denies. As the hurdy-gurdy of the play cranks up its madness, however, we even get to see a scene in which she accosts Orlov, claiming they’d known one another, and he denies all knowledge of her. There’s also Pecharova (Rebecca Pownall), who seems to be the wife of Pechar, fussing over him, insisting he wear a jumper though he wants to sunbathe, bringing him tea which he doesn’t want, and talking about his possible liaison with another woman. This other woman, Milena (Faye Castelow), is the waitress, who regularly brings on some orange juice and offers it round. She seems to be having a relationship with two different men, both of whom are Pechar. With each scene change, Pechar becomes the other man in this triangle, so we get to see the relationship develop with two men in one. It’s totally surreal, but surprisingly watchable and entertaining. Pechar also has a piece of repeated business, and I think it comes at the end of each scene. Milena, or possibly Pecharova, goes off in a huff, and Pechar seems to become aware of everyone watching him, including the audience. He looks around – he’s kneeling at this point – looking mortified at being the centre of attention, and then looks at Kotrba and shrugs. Thanks to Paul O’Mahony’s performance, this worked very well.

Dlask (Philip Anthony) brings on a bottle of wine and two glasses, and joins one of the other characters to share some wine and have a chat. Kunc (Robert Austin) appears every so often and spends some time whispering in Kotrba’s ear; they both have a good laugh at whatever it is that he’s said, and then he leaves without talking to anyone else.  Then there are the director(s) of the hotel, or institute, or whatever else this place represents. Drasar (Jonathan Guy Lewis) and Kraus (Christopher Naylor) take it in turns to be director, while the other one gets to be henchman. Each director comes on, accepts the warm response from the guests(?) and staff(?), then searches for a piece of paper with increasing degrees of panic. They find a small scrap of paper in one pocket, not much bigger than a credit card, which seems to be all they need. They then make a little speech, which includes statements ranging from the philosophical (e.g. unity is strength) to the banal (the light in the downstairs toilet has been fixed). Each statement is greeted as if it were a most important pronouncement, and with each scene we get a different assortment of choice statements, each delivered as if it were the most important thing in the world.

As the characters become more and more mixed, with lines being said by anyone in any order, the whole group stands up and starts dancing. With fewer women, the men have to cut in from time to time. Eventually, the dance stops, the actors stand still, and the lights go out. End of play. It made sense at the time, though describing it makes it seem really weird. Actually it was weird as well, but perfectly in keeping with the rest of the play.

The fun was in the performances, and the way these little cameos built up a larger picture without mapping it out too clearly. I got a sense of people having to be careful about revealing too much of their past, of having to change stories depending on who they were talking to, of reinventing themselves on a regular basis depending on who was now in power. Yet still the standard relationships were there, struggling to maintain normality when everything has gone horribly wrong. There was a subtle sense of menace in the air – characters talked about Kubik having missed some event, and how this would affect him. It was an intriguing play, which had a bit too much repetition in places for my liking, but which I still enjoyed overall.

There was the usual post-show chat, but I find I’ve forgotten most of what was said. There was some confirmation of the way Havel and many other writers chose to use surrealism to mask anti-government writing – if they couldn’t understand it, they couldn’t ban it. I suspect that’s what makes some European drama inaccessible to me – you had to have been there. The amount of beer being drunk in the first play (Audience) was commented on; apparently the timing of each bottle and glass was tricky, but turned out to be crucial to the scene. I do remember there were some long anecdotes by people who had been to Czechoslovakia, which seemed to have very little to add to the experience of the discussion, at least not as much as the actual Czech folk who contributed to the earlier talks, so perhaps that’s why I don’t have a lot more to say here.

© 2008 Sheila Evans at ilovetheatre.me

Audience – November 2008

6/10

By Vaclav Havel, translated by Carol Rocamora and Tomas Rychetsky

Directed by Geoffrey Beevers

Venue: Orange Tree Theatre

Date: Thursday 20th November 2008

The set was an office in a brewery. There was a table in the middle of the stage, surrounded by crates and metal barrels, and there were two chairs. The place looked rough – there was an old style radio (old even in the 70s) next to a barrel on our side of the table, and a small ball of twine sat on the barrel itself. To the far left, the door had the usual nude pictures, and a sign above the door said something like if you’re full of beer, you’re full of cheer.

The first of two plays, Audience concerned a meeting between Vanek and the foreman of the brewery he’s working in. When the lights go up, the foreman is snoozing, face down on his desk. When Vanek knocks, he wakes up and invites Vanek to come in and sit down, which he does, eventually. The foreman also offers him a glass of beer. Vanek is a reluctant drinker – we learn he prefers wine – but he does manage to drink a little. He also manages to get rid of a fair bit into the foreman’s glass when he’s away relieving himself. The foreman puts away more than enough for the both of them, though, as he keeps reaching into the crate beside him for another bottle. This became quite funny, and before long he had to disappear through the little door. Sounds of water in various forms, and then he’s back again, adjusting his flies and pulling down his apron. This became the major structural motif for this play.

Verbally, there was a cycle of repetition of what Vanek liked to drink, stories about the brewery, and warnings about Vanek’s relationship with another writer. Gradually, as the foreman became increasingly drunk, the pressure he was under to report on Vanek and his activities was revealed.

After too many beers, the foreman falls asleep, and Vanek puts him back in his chair, the way he was at the start, and leaves. We then get a reprise of the opening, with Vanek knocking on the door, the foreman waking up, etc. This time, Vanek seems more confident, and readily drinks the first glass of beer he’s offered – perhaps he’s learning? – and that’s where the play ends.

This was lovely little piece which showed us the effects of living under a repressive regime. The wariness about saying too much too openly, the recourse to alcohol to deaden the senses, the need for others to conform so as not to cause problems for those around them, all these came across very clearly as we went through another little repetitive dance. Along with the humour, and seeing just how human these people are to remind us that this can happen anywhere, this made for a very enjoyable opening play.

There was the usual post-show chat, but I find I’ve forgotten most of what was said. There was some confirmation of the way Havel and many other writers chose to use surrealism to mask anti-government writing – if they couldn’t understand it, they couldn’t ban it. I suspect that’s what makes some European drama inaccessible to me – you had to have been there. The amount of beer being drunk in the first play (Audience) was commented on; apparently the timing of each bottle and glass was tricky, but turned out to be crucial to the scene. I do remember there were some long anecdotes by people who had been to Czechoslovakia which seemed to have very little to add to the experience of the discussion, at least not as much as the actual Czech folk who contributed to the earlier talks, so perhaps that’s why I don’t have a lot more to say here.

© 2008 Sheila Evans at ilovetheatre.me

And Then There Were None – November 2008

6/10

By Agatha Christie

Directed by Joe Harmston

Agatha Christie Theatre Company

Connaught Theatre

Monday 17th November 2008

This was very good fun. We’d seen the production by the same company in London back in 2005 and enjoyed it then, but this was completely recast (and a touring version, so that the set was less elaborate) and it was still an excellent performance. We were particularly interested to see it so that we could look out for the actual murders; several take place on stage, and in full view of the audience, but as Agatha Christie is a master of misdirection, the audience rarely spots them. We did our best and saw a few, but I still missed a number of the killings.

The opening scene was quite light hearted, with all the cast doing their best to make it seem like a 1930s comedy rather than a whodunit. I found one chap, Alex Ferns, difficult to make out as his speech seemed slurred most of the time, but overall the dialogue was easy to hear. The set was pretty good with a huge round window centre back, a fireplace to our left with the poem and the ten little soldiers, and a few chairs about the place. The costumes were also 1930s style, and the whole piece worked very well in that context.

The first death put a bit of a blight on the occasion and then as each extra body was added to the toll, the tension began to rise. One scene was played in total or near darkness as the generator had run down and they had to use candles. It helped with the atmosphere as well as the plot, and the way the story had been slightly altered to keep all of the action in the one room was very good. The London production had introduced a few extra locations but this one stayed put, and I understand from the program notes that this was Christie’s own version of the play. She certainly knew how to keep people guessing.

Of course we knew who the guilty party was from the off, and I did my best to keep an eye on that person throughout, while still enjoying the whole performance. Even knowing who the murderer was, I still felt the pressure mounting at the end, when there are only two people left on the island and it’s clear that one of them has done all the murders. It’s the sign of a good writer, and Agatha Christie’s skill in this area has often been underrated. A good cast helps to get the most out of the characters as well, and tonight’s ensemble did a very good job. The soldiers weren’t disappearing quite as consistently as they did in London, but with the smaller set that might have been difficult to arrange so they tended to go during the scene changes. Not a problem, as the tension comes in other ways, too.

I was very aware of the play’s structure. The opening scene has a series of guests arriving at this island retreat and being introduced to one another, so we get to hear the names a number of times. Excellent. With such a large group of characters, and with a name change due very soon after the start, it’s important to register their names with us, and that’s what we get. Then, as the murders progress, we no sooner hear a guest’s own story, or confession, than they’re bumped off, which helped to balance the concerns I certainly felt about such one-sided retribution. After all, these people haven’t had a chance to speak in their own defence so some of them might be innocent. But there are enough confessions, and enough assertions of innocence supported by details that clearly show the opposite, that we can relax a little with the possibility that none of these people is being killed unjustly. (I think the book makes the guilt of each murderee quite explicit in its closing explanation.)

So this was a very good night out, and I would even like to see it again, to pick up on the murders I missed.

© 2008 Sheila Evans at ilovetheatre.me

Oedipus – November 2008

8/10

By Sophocles, translated and adapted by Frank McGuinness

Directed by Jonathan Kent

Olivier Theatre

Saturday 15th November 2008

What a journey we had to get here. The road past Haywards Heath station was closed off, so we had a long detour to reach it another way. Then there were roadworks outside Waterloo East that made us take another detour. At least, I thought, the Lyttelton performance will already have started, so the Ladies will be relatively empty. Not so; the Lyttelton performance was also starting at three o’clock, and the place was hoatching (Heaving, adjectival description of a busy location – Wikipedia). All this, and having to put our rucksacks into the cloakroom, meant we made it to our seats with only a few minutes to spare. Still, as I told Steve, if we think we’re having a bad day, what about Oedipus? How we chuckled.

The set was fantastic, though I was a little distracted by its brilliance. We’d seen the dome taking shape in the workshops during a backstage tour, and now we could see it completed. It filled the centre of the Olivier stage, and was tipped slightly forward. The surface was like weathered copper, slightly roughened, and with patches of copper colour mixed with the green. It reminded me of a globe map, with the copper as land and the green as sea. There was a large doorway towards the back, facing the audience, with two vast metal doors between chunky posts and lintel, and to our left, near the front of the stage, was a long table with two matching benches. Panels at the back of the stage opened about four times when people arrived, one on each side, and each time there were trees on display. The first time they were all silver, the second time vultures had been added, and the third time they were golden autumn colours. The fourth time they were blasted stumps. (I hope they’re mentioned in the playtext, as I can’t remember exactly when they happened.)

The set used the slow revolve to perform a complete circle during the course of the play, finishing shortly before Oedipus arrives, covered in blood, for his final speeches of suffering. The table and benches didn’t move at all, however, and this was what distracted me briefly, as I looked for the groove that had to accommodate whatever was supporting the table. I spotted it fairly quickly, and I also noticed some of the chorus, when they were sitting on the benches, having to adjust their feet from time to time as the floor passed underneath them. Still, it was only a minor distraction.

The chorus was very good, with plenty of singing, chanting and speaking, often interleaving their lines. I thought the translation/adaptation was excellent. It kept the feel of a Greek tragedy, with some nicely poetic rhythmic lines, but also introduced some apposite modernisms, such as Creon saying he’d hang every terrorist. There were fine performances from Ralph Fiennes as the man who curses himself, and Clare Higgins as the mother who finds she’s married her son. Both were over-confident and scornful of the gods and prophecy, only to find the truth too much to bear. The other characters  were also very good, especially Jasper Britton as Creon, who, despite his apparently sincere declaration that he wasn’t seeking the top job, looked remarkably comfortable in the role once he’d got it. Also Alan Howard was powerful as Tiresias, the blind seer who gives Oedipus his first cryptic warnings of the doom to come. The question was asked several times, if Tiresias was so smart, how come he didn’t spill the beans a lot earlier and prevent all this suffering? Thebes is in a pretty bad way, crops not growing, women not having proper babies (buckets of blood were mentioned), and food apparently rotting in folk’s mouths (I assume this was poetic rather than literal). There’s no satisfactory answer to this question, except that Tiresias serves Apollo, so we’ll just have to assume that Laos, the previous king and Oedipus’s daddy, upset Apollo big time, and that’s why the entire family, and the country, suffers so much.

For Oedipus’s final appearance, the doors dropped down, and the panels at the back slid open to reveal emptiness. Oedipus gets a brief chance to be with his children, hugging his two little girls, before being sent inside on Creon’s orders, away from the public view. Creon tries to stop the girls from helping him, but I noticed that the elder – Antigone, I assume – escapes his clutches to lead her father off (she’ll defy Creon again, but that’s another play). The stage is left to the chorus and one or two of the other characters. As the chorus spreads out across the stage, the lights dim, and finally go out.

I love the way Greek drama is so direct. The characters speak lines that would rarely, if ever, come out of ordinary people’s mouths, yet, like Shakespeare’s poetic dialogue, they can be so much more moving. Also, we get to hear all sorts of arguments and points of view debated and discussed. We do also have to put up with unpleasant violence and lots of deaths, but on the whole I think it’s a fair price to pay, especially as performances tend to come in under two hours. This production was well worth the effort to get here.

© 2008 Sheila Evans at ilovetheatre.me