On the 12th February I was lucky enough to see Gabriele Uboldi’s Oedipus Rex at the Byre Theatre. Following his heavy involvement in many popular St Andrews productions, such as Bacchae, Ubu Roi and Death in the Quad, expectations for Uboldi’s adaption were high. Yet he, supported by his cast and crew, met them spectacularly. In the brilliantly written and executed vision we are taken through the cracked mind of Oedipus, on a labyrinthine journey worthy of the Greek traditions from which it was born. We live in a time where truth and lie merge to form our technology-fuelled reality; this anxious state is captured in Uboldi’s portrait of the fragile relationship between truth and self in Oedipus Rex.
This portrait was ambitious to say the least, and no element of the production was ignored, with great care being taken over every aspect. Like a fever dream, Oedipus’ past unfurls itself before us, as it becomes clear that Uboldi had the Byre in mind when he began writing the script. The performance was a multi-media affair, and was pulled off with great success. All elements worked together seamlessly, from the original music to the videography, with nothing appearing as though it had had to be pushed in. The creative risks all complemented each other, and those involved should be congratulated.
There were many wonderful performances and everyone’s dedication to their part in the story was evident. Oedipus’ fractured self is gradually laid bare by the group of talented actors who play him (Isabelle Cory, Charles Vivian, Miriam Woods and Martin Caforio), their different voices culminating in one frightening representation of a broken man. A ‘prisoner in his own story’, as Uboldi puts it.
While the whole cast was excellent, I would single out Martina Sardelli for her truly stunning performance as Jocasta. In a stark contrast to Oedipus, Jocasta is a woman whose sense of what she wants her ‘self’ to be is strong enough that she becomes just as complex and dangerous as her son/husband. While she is selfish and often displays a complete lack of empathy that almost boarders on the unnatural, Sardelli’s portrayal is eye-catchingly human and entirely engaging. As Oedipus crumbles, Jocasta rises, and the ambiguity as to whether her power will result in her meeting the same fate as her two past lovers lingers on the stage as she exits with a smug smile.
This review would not be complete without a special mention for Ben Clark, who, as well as giving a powerful performance as the paranoid ex-leader Laius, showed the world (or, at least, those lucky enough to have been in the Byre theatre) that he can really rock a hot pink mini dress.
Uboldi’s ambitious project was both hugely enjoyable and an important reflection on the nature of contemporary politics; If you didn’t manage to see it then I can only offer you my condolences.