On The Misconception of Oedipus

Malthouse OEDIPUS Image by Jeff Busby
Malthouse Theatre’s production of Oedipus. Image by Jeff Busby

Whether or not the balance between dark humour and an unsettling atmosphere has been perfected in Tom Wright’s modern take on an ancient Greek tragedy, On The Misconception of Oedipus is even more grotesque than the original, and strongly confronting.

Focusing largely on the parents burdened with a pre-determined and ugly fate, the performance is sculptured around intense dialogue. As the play progresses, the performers recount possible versions of events. It preoccupies itself predominantly with an overarching theme about the destructive nature of knowing future events before they occur. This concept leads the audience to ask: do we seal our fate in trying to avoid it?

Daniel Schlusser is urgent and manic as the father, Laius, while Natasha Herbert is positively striking in her depiction of Jocasta. Featuring in the opening and ending scenes, Richard Pyros completes the trio as their son, Oedipus.

For the majority of the performance, lighting and sound are unimportant, while co-devisor and writer Tom Wright’s words are imperative. The dialogue is carefully crafted and powerful, and each performer is equally skilled in their delivery. Daniel Schlusser and Richard Pyros bear a striking resemblance in their frantic performances, giving a remarkable and sometimes unnerving reality to their father and son relationship.

Natasha Herbert’s subtly deranged, obsessed version of Oedipus’s mother is a driving part of the performance. The cast works most effectively as an ensemble, particularly Natasha and Daniel’s overlapping sentences. None of the three miss a beat in the rapid, captivating story about unintentional self-destruction.

Zoe Atkinson’s set and costume design are both unconventional and realistic. The “unfinished” set and old recording technology, coupled with a stage laid out as though the audience is looking through a window at the performers, gives a heightened sense that the events have already occurred, but the pieces don’t quite fit together. The costumes are less stylised, however, and enhance the dialogue by making the three performers look the part of a modern family.

[pull_left]the play itself is masterfully scripted and fiercely constructed[/pull_left]

Towards the end of the performance, when the dialogue is less overbearing, Kelly Ryall’s eerie sound design is employed to break the silence. Similarly, while for verbal parts of the play there is nondescript lighting, lighting designer Paul Jackson uses backing UV lights and a stylised red filter on the main stage during the movement based segment. Although these technical elements are visually impressive, the dialogue is what really makes the performance so compelling.

Simply put, artistic director Melissa Cantwell, co-devisor and director Matthew Lutton, and assistant director Daniel Lammin have developed a chilling, contemporary take on the well-known Greek myth. On The Misconception of Oedipus is not for the faint of heart and ultimately leaves the audience feeling unclean. That aside, the play itself is masterfully scripted and fiercely constructed.

Bookings: www.perththeatre.com OR BOCS Ticketing 08 9484 1133

Wednesday 5 September – Saturday 15 September 2012 (excludes Sundays)


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