Oedipus and Antigone

MATTHEW PLUME was blown away by a cast who were let down by a weak script

actors antigone Cambridge oedipus script Theatre Thesps weak

The scene opens in Thebes; a perfect white set, bright colour scheme and upbeat music setting the tone for a city initially, it seems, in perfect happiness. But all is not well – a plague has descended, and the assembled people appeal to Oedipus for help.

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Alasdair McNab as Oedipus is fantastic; throughout the majority of the first act he commands the stage space, a challenging role he tackles with great skill, mapping Oedipus’ psychological journey from the renowned saviour of the city to its polluter, and his descent into the madness of realisation. Laura Waldren is also excellent as Jocasta, particularly as she begins to piece together the true identity of her husband. Kay Dent is a chilling Teiresias, her foresight and blindness contrasting perfectly with Oedipus’ sight and lack of foreknowledge – the contrasting Sophoclean themes are very well brought out by Dent and McNab, and their exchange was one of the most powerful moments of the play. Particular credit must be given too to Director Robbie Taylor-Hunt, whose choreography in particular was excellent – the rendering of Oedipus’ retelling of his leaving Corinth and arriving in Thebes was brilliantly done.

The second half suffered from a weaker script, but was redeemed by equally good acting. Waldren’s opening monologue was chilling, and Tom Beaven shone as Creon; his transformation from something of a sycophant to the dictatorial ruler of a grieving Thebes was played extremely well. Again, Taylor-Hunt deserves credit for his direction; the blood-smeared set, darker colour scheme and grim parody of the opening scene dances as gang fights worked brilliantly. Try as I might not to mention overmuch the weakness of the script, it is hard to escape the most jarring part of the second half; Ryan Monk acted the Shepherd-turned-Guard very well, and was certainly amusing – but when interspersed near-constantly at some of the moments which should have had immense dramatic tension, it risked lessening the impact of the play as a whole.

All in all, well worth a watch, and certainly go if you can.