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Fringe review: A Greek Tragedy – ‘Oedipus Rex – The King’

Adelaide Fringe

Loucas Loizou presents a striking and intimate retelling of the ancient Greek Oedipus myth in a one-man show being presented at the Adina Treasury Tunnels and other venues during Adelaide Fringe. ★★★

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Oedipus, the hero Sigmund Freud made famous in the early 20th century, was fated to kill his father and marry his mother in redemption for family sins.

I have seen this show announced as a version of Sophocles’ play of the fifth century BC, but the story itself is nearly a thousand years older than that and this performance sits closer to the work of bards, such as Homer, who kept the stories alive up to Sophocles’ time. Roaming the countryside, they sang for their supper and then a bit more; Loizou’s performance (and his own persona) put me strongly in mind of that process.

So this is no Sophoclean drama. There is no chorus, no argument between Oedipus and Creon, no grilling of the Shepherd. Loizou tells the story in the third person in the guise of a priest – except for two changes of costume, where he becomes the blind prophet Teiresias (very effective contrast, that) and later on, Oedipus himself (also blind, by then). And like the ancient bards, Loizou sings, self-accompanied on guitar.

There are five original songs in this play, sung from the points of view of various characters. “What is love?” sings Jocasta on seeing her son and husband-to-be Oedipus. Why does she feel so deeply for this man when she swore at the death of Oedipus’s father Laius that she would never love again? Then there is “Everything comes to an end, someday”, a tragic foreshadowing of what was to come.

The songs are accomplished tuneful folky ballads, sung attractively and confidently by the 71-year-old Loizou, eliciting buckets of sympathy for the innocently-suffering Jocasta. Loizou’s voice shows occasional signs of cracking, but that only adds to the raw emotion of the performance.

The venue for this performance, the catacombs of the Treasury building, was creepily perfect, adding to the feeling that we could have been in a cave in the Corinthian hinterland around 1000 BC, listening to a descendant of Homer keep alive the stories of the heroes.

At the end, I thought Oedipus’s speech of woe went on too long and detracted from the impact of the piece and of the striking, bloody final costume change. But this is a very interesting show in a great setting.

A Greek Tragedy: ‘Oedipus Rex –The King’ is being presented across several venues over the duration of the Fringe: Adina Treasury Tunnels, the National Wine Centre, the British Hotel in Port Adelaide and Fedora’s Restaurant at the Hilton Adelaide. Read more InDaily Fringe reviews and stories here.

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