Greek tragedy performed well goes straight to our primal heart, tapping into archetypes that unite all of humanity. Greek tragedy done badly is a bore of actors bemoaning their fate and offering toneless philosophical monologues that test our endurance.
Post-modernism done well is an incisive stab at our complacency, with irony as its sword. Done badly, it is a collection of lame in-house jokes.
Oedipus @ Koö-Nú! gave us the worst of both.
The Standard Bank Young Artist award winner Greg Homann’s showcase at the Rhodes Theatre was a tedious pastiche of Sophocles’s tragic tale that appeared to seek relevance by splicing meta-theatre humour into the plot. And setting the action amongst toilet bowls seemed to suggest that the no-man’s land in which David Dennis as Oedipus and Masasa Mbangeni as Antigone tonelessly wail, groan, and continually state their mutual love and loyalty might be Khayelitsha.
It went on and on and on, with the only surprise being a fun musical interlude replete with rainbow and rugby balls to break the tedium.
Faced with little prospect of relief, one starts to search for things that may offer respite. Jemma Kahn’s psychedelic costumes came in useful here, her eclectic style sparkling all over them.
Tumi Morake as the Chorus, and Theseus, can be commended for her well-pitched comic range, while Ameera Patel’s talent as Ismene seemed a bit wasted.
Granted, the responsibility that the SBYA award carries is not an easy one to bear but it’s also a pity to have anticipation so disappointed. Especially when all the right elements were there, they were just so, obvious, and not quite in their right place, putting the entire spectacle woefully out of kilter.
To give Homann his due, it is highly likely his reworking of Oedipus will split the audience down the middle. Which, at the very least, is preferable to a safe and mediocre offering.
Oedipus @ Koö-Nú! is on at the Rhodes Theatre until 5 July.
— Steve Kretzmann