Review: Oedipus & Antigone

Fran Fabriczki 22 October 2014

English students in Cambridge rejoiced as they heard that two plays on their Tragedy reading lists would be put on at the ADC this term, giving them a chance to see stories come to life 2500 years after they were originally staged. CUADC’s production of Phil Willmott’s 'Oedipus & Antigone' does indeed create a stimulating rendition of the originals, even if it is predominantly ‘by-the-book’.

Much like Teiresias the blind prophet, the audience is cursed with foreknowledge of Oedipus’s fate; most will already know the story, or some version of it that has been used and abused by Freud. However, this does not diminish the power it has to captivate audiences. As the chorus states, we are unable to turn our eyes away from the sight of Oedipus squirming, blood-stained on the floor at the climax of the first act. This poignant moment best showcases tragedy’s ability to inspire ‘fear and pity’ in the audience and is one of the most successful scenes in invoking the original Greek plays.

Image Credit: Johannes Hjorth

However, the inclusion of a comic character, in the form of the shepherd, would have Sophocles rolling in his grave – yet the audience was appreciative of this deviation from the classical rules as it created some much-needed respite amidst this double dose of tragedy. Ryan Monk’s bumbling and optimistic shepherd-turned soldier brought youthful energy to the play.

The shepherd was not the only character to be assigned a more prominent role in this age-old story. Although Jocasta is initially reduced to stalking Oedipus’ steps and mouthing incoherent words of appeasement, Laura Waldren’s portrayal truly comes into its own in the second act as a Goth-like ghost and narrator of the events between the two plays.

The presence of this haunting mother figure helps develop the character of Antigone, who, despite having inherited her father’s penchant for shouting, is portrayed by Rhianna Frost with great ambiguity. Although she is still a generic poster-girl for the liberal individualist fighting against autocracy, she is not an entirely sympathetic character. Neither is Creon, played by Tom Beaven, entirely antipathetic as he vacillates between the different aspects of his character. The transformation of Creon from stuttering sidekick to tyrannical head-of-state is one of the most ingenious parts of this amalgamation of Greek tragedies.

Emotionally taxing for the audience, and presumably the cast members as well, this play provides no light-hearted entertainment. Yet, much like its original, it leaves us questioning ideas of free will and destiny. 

8/10

Do you agree? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.

'Oedipus & Antigone'  is playing at the ADC Theatre at 7.45 pm until Saturday 25th. Get your tickets online at https://www.adctheatre.com/whats-on/drama/oedipus-and-antigone.aspx

All Image Credits: Johannes Hjorth