REVIEW OF 2019 ATHENS FESTIVAL PRODUCTION
Ancient Greek Tragedy may be difficult to do well but the currentproduction of Oedipus Rex is a prime example of what a brilliantdirector can do with a superb cast. Theproduction by Athinaika Theatra, directed by Konstantinos Markoulakis was firstperformed at the Ancient Theatre of Dodoni in Epirus and was shown at Epidaurusbefore setting on a tour across Greece. I caught its penultimate performance atthe Melina Mercouri Open Air Theatre in Vironas, near Athens on September 3,2019.
Oedipus Rex tellspart of the tragic story of the Royal House of Thebes in which the decent andcapable king is discovered to have unwittingly killed his father and thenmarried his mother. Fearful of the oracle that prophesied that he would bekilled by his son, King Laius tied the feet of the newborn and gave him to aservant to dispose of him.
The child was Oedipus whose name means swollen feet and his life wassaved by a shepherd. He grew up in Corinth but as an adult he returned to Thebesand saved the city from the murderous Sphinx by solvingthe riddle. He became king.
But Thebes was struck by plague, people were dying, the crops withered,and women aborted their children. The oracle at Delphi through the blind seerTiresias tells them that the city must be cleansed of the murderer of KingLaius. The search ultimately leads to none other than Oedipus having killedLaius without knowing that he was in fact his father.
Dimitris Lignadis gives an outstanding performance as Oedipus. We see himas the imperial king of Thebes, a commanding presence who shows genuine concernfor the people who have come to the palace. He displays the strength andassurance of a leader determined to find the truth with the knowledge that heis innocent.
Lignadis has a powerful voice, amarvelous stage presence and a superb dramatic range. We see his Oedipus unravelslowly as the terrible truth is revealed to him. When he realizes what he hasdone he lets out a semi-sung howl that echoes against the cliffs that embracethe theatre and reverberates down the millennia to a similar howl roared byKing Lear many centuries later. A bravura performance.
Amalia Moutousi as Jocasta makesa splendid consort for Oedipus. She is regal, self-assured, supportive of herhusband and refuses to believe the rumours. Again, we see all of that undercutby the truth that is sweeping her husband off his feet. She is destroyed by it.A superb performance.
The Chorus of Theban elders ishandled with outstanding ability and variety. They come carrying dolls withtheir feet tied. Half of them carry musical instruments such as drums, asaxophone, cymbals and an accordion. The music, especially the use of thedrums, is a significant addition to the drama.
The performance is done on acompletely bare stage. There is not even an indication of a palace door.Nothing is needed when the text is treated with amazing effectiveness by theactors and the chorus.
Kudos are well deserved by thesupporting actors. Nikos Chatzopoulos as Creon, Konstantinos Avarikiotis asTiresias, Giorgos Ziovas as the Messenger, Giorgos Psychogios as the Shepherdand Nikolas Hanakoulas as the Messenger.
Oedipus Rex bySophocles, translated by Giannis Lignadis, was performed on September 3, 2019 atthe Melina Mercouri Open Air Theatre, Vironas, Athens, Greece.