The Complex: Oedipus

This piece from Terrible Edgar is an intriguing metatheatrical reworking of Sophocles’ mother of all tragedies. Or should that be wife of all... The play opens with various members of the chorus, preparing themselves for their 2504th performance of Oedipus Rex. They have aged from the mammoth experience, not so much old as weary, almost dusty and battered. Confusion reigns as the chorus interact with each other in an attempt to remember where they are and what they are meant to be doing, exhibiting signs of their senility or the effects of having just woken from a dream. Having established their situation, Chorus 6 threatens to leave and questions the purpose of performing the tragic piece. Reluctantly she stays and the performance of ‘Oedipus the King’ begins. The performance continues in this fashion, with Sophocles’ story gradually unfolding whilst all the time Chorus 6 interjects, endeavouring for it to be abandoned, asking why they can’t prevent the inevitable ending.

The show has a fascinating premise concerned largely with concepts of fate and free will. In the Sophocles original, the heavy hand of destiny looms over the play; because of the Delphic prophecy all is predetermined. This show introduces the idea that Oedipus had a choice, and suggests that blaming the gods was merely an excuse for a man’s independent actions, an effort to portray Oedipus as a tragic hero rather than a monstrous villain. There is an interesting parallel being played out throughout between Chorus 6’s attempt to introduce free will to the script and Oedipus’ acceptance of his own fate.

It is an innovative production, and perhaps even more interesting in hindsight, leaving as many questions as it does answers. The performances were solid if unexceptional, and you could do much worse than go see this.

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The Blurb

It's the 2504th performance of Oedipus Rex and Chorus 6 wants to call it quits. But the tragic hero isn’t ready to let go. If you thought you knew Oedipus, think again. 'Indisputably excellent' (Varsity, Cambridge).

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