Greek

Tue 12th – Sat 16th November 2013

reviews

Charlotte Furniss-Roe

at 09:54 on 13th Nov 2013

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The play itself, as a modern adaptation of Oedipus, succeeds at using ancient references, updated into the context of 1980s Britain – whilst the structure of the play is completely thrown around, the focus stays the same. Oedipus Rex, and therefore Stephen Berkoff's Greek, is essentially about sex and death. The director Ella, who was also acting, captured this throughout, but especially well in the climactic death scene by having the main character Sam on top of the man he is killing. This is not for the faint-hearted: half of the theatre was taken up by a school trip, which was perhaps not the right audience for a play that was fairly daring in the inclusion of so many sexual scenes. That is not to say that it was gratuitously sexual – hopeless and aggressive sex are written into the play, especially as part of the background of a despairing and plagued city, filled with strikes, whores and drunks.

The cast as a whole worked particularly well in this aspect, collapsing as grotesque rats and maggots, but veneered with the frivolities of wine bars and Harrods. The front row of the audience certainly got a shock, and my pity, when the play opened with taunts and abuse hurled from the mouths of the cast, faces twisted with aggression. On the whole, the cast's dark outfits and malleable furniture roles lent that the unfolding of the play a fluidity that merged the characters and scenes of London life into the background. On this note the music in these scenes seemed carefully selected to add depth and life to them. This contrasted well with some sneaky references to ancient Greece that the classicists among us (myself included) can be quick to appreciate – the constant presence of graffiti smeared black on white across the set, saying things like 'motherfucker', and 'bad', was a great detail and reminder of the timelessness of the story. Sam, as Ed, was particularly impressive as a son, a husband, and a combination of the two – he made deep and raging similes in high poetic style and screaming profanities seem equally natural. This meant that his narrative did well to portray him as curious and yet reasoned in youth as well as dreamlike and provocative at the end of the play, and this came across particularly well in the scene in which he seems to try to untangle his familial situation as he seems calm despite the grotesqueness of the scene.

Also worth a mention is Alistair as the Dad, who was believable and powerful in his scene describing how he found Ed as a child, while the simple setting of him on a stool facing his son and the audience worked well to draw attention to the scene he was creating with his words.

On the whole, this was an interesting if quite risky theatrical take – much of it seemed odd and indeed many of the audience members were shocked into laughter but for me the overall effect was spot on: sex and death in Thebes and London.

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Jodie Coates

at 10:11 on 13th Nov 2013

1agrees

0disagrees

Sexually fuelled, physical and energetic – this production was a worthy homage to Berkoff’s style of theatre and certainly made for an interesting watch. On the whole, the lively cast of freshers created some poignant, powerful and explicitly vulgar moments, yet there was clearly some room for improvement which could perhaps have been righted by a little more rehearsal time and discipline.

The story was told vividly and the physicality in some sequences was very impressive. It was obvious that some sections had been well rehearsed – the stage combat choreography was fluid and shocking, the physical creation of furniture was well spaced and thought out and the sexual moments were graphic enough to prompt giggles and gasps from within the audience (a large number of Sixth Formers were on a theatre trip, so this was to be expected!). For the most part the ensemble was clearly comfortable with each other and this therefore allowed a sense of flow and direction as the play moved forward. Spatial awareness of the stage was also good, especially in such an odd set-up as the Corpus Playroom, as there was always something interesting to look at right before you, or to glance at in the distance. However, there were a number of instances when movements were out of time or perhaps not wholly confident and there were some glances between actors as if asking ‘what comes next?’ Especially, some transitions between scenes were quite fumbled as the ensemble struggled to get back to their ‘neutral’ positions on the benches positioned at the side of the stage and I often felt my attention drifting to this, rather than focusing on the real action as it continued. However, given that this was a fresher’s production and was created in a few week’s time, the cast did well to create chemistry on stage and this is to be applauded.

Apart from the odd lighting changes for mood and focus and a burst of background music to set a scene up, there was barely any variation in theatrical effects. Yet , I found that they might have done just as well without any lighting changes as the core of the performance was so centred around their physical characterisation, the performance would have been just as effective without. The costumes were more practical than effective and I couldn’t help thinking that black ripped t-shirts and joggers seemed somewhat ‘GCSE student-esque’. Although, this did work well for the multi-rolling and physicality of the piece it may have been interesting to see some more inventive form of costume that would still unify but also individualise the cast members.

Berkoff’s writing lends itself well to caricatured personas and certain cast members took this in their stride. Alasdair McNab and Ella Konzon in particular played the parts of Eddy’s adoptive parents well, with Konzon recreating the ditsy, loving mother figure to comedic effect and McNab conveying the gritty and strong-willed father. There was a moment in the play when the audience fell tense and silent as they were captivated entirely on McNab as he quite simply and clearly told the story of the war and finding Eddy – very emotive, and very powerful which was refreshing change in amongst all the frantic physical movement of the performance. Sam Fairbrother also had a notable performance, playing Eddy which demanded a great sense of passion and humour and this rang out clearly in some moments, particularly at the close of the play which was performed very tenderly. For a first night performance, nerves were understandably high and some lines were stumbled over and there were a couple of uncomfortable pauses where the narrative jarred. However, this was recovered smoothly when the ensemble leapt into the action of the next scene and carried the play onwards.

All in all, the play was an interesting piece of physical theatre, with some great moments and a lot of potential, had they had more time to develop their ideas and really explore more of Berkoff’s style. Yet, the story was told well, the tragedy of the plot evident and moving making it an engaging, if a little rough-around the edges, production.

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