FringeReview Scotland 2015
The larger summer project for Scottish Youth Theatre gives us Liz Lochhead’s masterpiece on Greek Tragedy which follows the house of Oedipus and their three legends. Delivered in an episodic format we see Oedipus’s fate, his sons’ rivalry and then his daughter’s disobeying of his brother in law’s decree outlawing the burial rites of one of her dead brothers. As in all Greek tragedies much blood drips as Oedipus stabs out his eyes before dying, his mother and wife Jocasta kills herself after her sons, Eteocles and Polyneices kill each other and then her daughter, Antigone, hangs herself before her nephew, Haemon who is betrothed to Antigone, kills himself in front of his father, the new King Creon.
We begin by meeting the chorus who perform, by way of introduction a physical choral piece that demonstrates things are not good in Thebes. Their King, Oedipus arrives to calm them and to begin the journey which will lead to finding out who killed their previous King. The story that unfolds follows the prophecy given to Oedipus’ real father that his son would kill him and mate with his mother; with such a hideous discovery Oedipus can take it no more and plucks out his eyes. We then have the war between Oedipus’ sons Eteocles and Polyneices. Twins, designed to rule year about Eteocles, having got a taste of ruling in the first year refuses to yield to his brother. Polyneices wages war and loses, first his life and then the war as Eteocles’ army under Creon win. Antigone’s story, the last, has her defying the orders of her new King and suffering banishment as a result. Certain death by starvation is on the cards unless Creon can be convinced by the people and his son to relent. He does so, only to find Antigone hung before his son kills himself in grief.
As with many a youth theatre production this had some great performances and some which were good and assured but a little off the mark. It is however a massive undertaking and my misgivings slight.
The text is Lochhead at her finest. She takes the lyrical challenges of the Greeks and recreates them as her own words with its own beauty and lyricism added. Directorially Mary McCluskey continues to demonstrate a firm understanding of the text whilst insight into how to give it freshness and new vigour. The communal movement, set pieces between protagonists and the three episodes presented within 50 minutes each with short intervals was like a compelling Netflix box set of tragic consequences.
The Brian Cox studio lends itself well to this type of promenade performance and I have often wondered why it is not more widely used as a performance space as it a tremendous venue. The set was imaginatively used as well as imaginative in its style and concept. The colour scheme, use of smoke and sound added to the effect that we were at a place in crisis. Costumes were appropriate and whilst the chorus had a grey apparel that was in the make up as much as the clothing, the major characters arrived with panache and style out of keeping with their underlings. It gave us a real sense of them being out of touch with their people.
Overall this falls respectably within the impressive canon of work that SYT has brought us with joy and incisive youthful analysis. Like many previous productions I left the theatre feeling that I had witnessed something very worthwhile, on a par with a professional piece of theatre. That this is done with a young company, recently introduced to each other and with youth replacing experience taking a classic piece of text apart and reconstructing it as classic theatre makes it an experience that will keep drawing me back.