“The poet did not write ‘Agamemnon, Parthenon, Taramasalata’ but in Oedipussy it is intoned as a choric reminder that Greek tragedy developed from the earlier satyr plays whose revels and antics are right up there with Spymonkey’s use of song and physical theatre.”
Dangle an adapted classic in front of a critic and you invite trouble. So it was fun to hear Spymonkey open Oedipussy with a swipe at a hostile review of their Moby Dick (Edinburgh, February 2010). The boot went onto the other, platformed, foot with wicked intent and not a little of the ensemble playing that would follow.
Oedipus has swollen feet, of course, which is not surprising as they are ‘pinned’ here using a cordless drill. Just one of the modern tools – add a unicycle, saxophone(s) and radio mic – that this production uses to ‘build up a dazzling mockery of delight’. The poet did not write ‘Agamemnon, Parthenon, Taramasalata’ but in Oedipussy it is intoned as a choric reminder that Greek tragedy developed from the earlier satyr plays whose revels and antics are right up there with Spymonkey’s use of song and physical theatre. ‘Woman-breasted Fate’ has her naked moment on stage as a wardrobe accident but otherwise the action is more ‘hot, hard, and in your face’ than anything stylised or reflective.
That said, ‘It’s not bloody panto’ either, as Jocasta (Petra Massey) would have the audience realise. The oracle may be hilariously represented by ballooned eyeballs – plus a red nose in a later manifestation – but the episodes are all here, from the infant Oedipus on Mount Kithairon to Jocasta’s suicide.
It is a post-modern piece though, if you allow 007 a mythic quality. Characters deconstruct as the four actors protest – along with Oedipus – that ‘this is the [real] me’: Petra Massey has problems with her feet and cannot have children; Aitor Basauri says he is not fat and tries out as a stand-up comic and Stephan Kreiss (Oedipus), at 51, needs pain relief from wild acting, and longs to go home to a more ordered Germany.
The Chorus (Park) does its job, singly, with a broken column on his head, and it seems is forever twirling in time as his robes wrap and unwrap around the white, ingeniously available set. Park is also Tiresias the blind prophet who has a remarkable turn as ‘a very bad David Bowie’ with outrageous pink cans on his head. Those costumes do stand out. They are colourful and outrageous, much more ‘Barbarella’(1968) than ‘Atlantis’ (2013).
Nevertheless, blood splatters and streams onto the stage and there are drum rolls to accompany the Eels’ ‘It’s a Motherf-’ – and, whilst the poetry is long gone, Oedipussy has its own tragic face. The production finally plays out to ‘Nobody does it better’, which is fair enough.