JOYCE MCMILLAN on OEDIPUSSY at the Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh, for The Scotsman 10.10.13.
4 stars ****
THE SATIRICAL band Half Man Half Biscuit once had a song for it. “I’ve had a bad review, me girlfriend’s furious,” they intoned; and the theatre company Spymonkey were apparently so taken aback by a bad review I gave them a couple of years ago that they spend the first five minutes of their latest show going on about it, and describing how it has inspired (or something) their latest work.
Yet if you can stand the obligatory strand of jokey self-reflection that forms a key part of the company’s work, and have a high tolerance for slapstick, then it’s good to be able to report that Oedipussy, their current version of the Oedipus myth, represents an impressively complete account of one of the founding stories of our civilisation; not so much a send-up of the tale of the king who unknowingly killed his own father and married his mother, as a creditable and sometimes moving version of it, with added jokes.
So there’s the story of Oedipus, in all its mounting horror. There’s the slapstick, including an increasingly irritating running joke about the difficulty of manoeuvring large costumes through the narrow gaps between the columns of the set. There are are self-reflective out-of-character monologues for each of the cast, ranging from reductive Radio 4-style self-absorption to the quietly tragic; and there is some fine music, revisiting the Oedipus myth through a memorable and poignant moment of glam rock. Emma Rice’s production is colourful and ingenious, it features four thoughtful performances, and it handles the horror of the play’s ending with more feeling and imagination than some straight productions I have seen; and although this lightweight approach to the classics will always irritate some, Oedipussy is a show stuffed with talent, and – somewhere beneath the silly wigs – a true sense of tragedy.