Edward Alderton Theatre
Oedipus the King
Directed and translated by Clive Madel
21-28 March 2009 (7 performances)
Oedipus the King is the story of a man whose destiny was determined at birth. It is the story of a man treated as a mere plaything of the gods. It is a story of fear and betrayal, of incest and murder, of suicide and horrific mutilation...
Cast Oedipus Steve Padgham Creon Richard Banks Jocasta Eileen Warner Priest of Zeus Paul Friett Teiresias Horry Stapleton Shepherd Tony Donnelly Messenger from Corinth Matt Clowry Messenger from Thebes Matthew Friett Chorus Leader Shirley Andrews Chorus Louise Allum, Sheila Blake, Karen Friett, Maureen Hardwen, Linda Lee, Eleanor McEnery, Christine McKeon, Geraldine Mullins, Andrea Montague, Annette Tranter, Lucinda Yianni, Michéle Yianni Teiresias' Boy Joseph Banks Jocasta's Maidservants Ella Banks, Hannah Russell Palace Guards Scott Godfrey, Charlie Warner Attendant Jack Ball Antigone Emily Appleby Ismene Lauren Russell Plague Victims Jenny McCarthy, Dorothy Holmans, Jane Russell, Paul Friett, Horry Stapleton, Tony Donnelly, Matt Clowry, Matthew Friett, Joseph Banks, Ella Banks, Hannah Russell, Emily Appleby, Lauren Russell
Crew Stage Manager Sarah O'Hanlon Assistant Stage Manager Viv Stapleton Set Design Clive Madel Set Construction John Vinnels, Ron Andrews, Cheryl Loom Set Decoration Annette Tranter, Clive Madel, Dorothy Holmans, Louise Allum, Richard Banks, Jenny McCarthy, Karen Friett, Paul Friett Costumes Helen Banks Properties & Backstage Nicola Clark Lighting Design & Rig Jerry McKeon, Jamie Povey, Michael Smith, Rebecca Mason, Christine McKeon Sound Design Rebecca Mason Lighting & Sound Operation Jamie Povey Choreography Jenny McCarthy
Set photographs by www.raybrownphotography.com
Clive Madel's production of Sophocles' play Oedipus the King at the Edward Alderton Theatre is ambitious but rewarding and, as such, proved an enjoyable evening, writes Steve Spencer.
The play - in a new translation by the director - centres on the growing realization by Oedipus, now King of Thebes, that he himself is the cause of the plague which has beset the Theban people since the murder of King Laius. At the start of the drama he denounces the killer and follows a relentless and obsessive quest to root out and punish the cursed individual. Informed by the words of prophecy and testimony, Oedipus soon pieces together the sorry events of his past life and tragically concludes that Apollo's prophecy at his birth, whereby he will kill his father and marry his mother and bear her children, has been fulfilled. Distraught and revolted by his guilt he plunges pins into his eyes and seeks banishment far from civilized society. In one day Oedipus has shifted from the most popular to the most despised man in Thebes; from a wealthy, powerful king to a reviled, impotent exile.
Steve Padgham plays Oedipus with great conviction and delivers a credible and enlightening performance. His anger and fury as accusations fly are matched by moments of tenderness as he realizes exile means the loss of his daughters forever. Eileen Warner plays his loyal wife, Jocasta, whose revulsion at the moment of discovery that her husband is in fact her son, is palpable.
Most characters are well played and it is refreshing to see many roles (some non-speaking) competently undertaken by young EAT members. Special mention should be given to the women playing the chorus whose clarity and rhythm do justice to the text. The production is complemented by a stark monochromatic set dominated by huge blood-red doors to the palace (thanks again to Clive Madel's handiwork) and thoughtful costume design. What a pity Oedipus the King is not playing to a full house: great drama in the hands of a reliable and accessible production deserves to be seen.
Kentish Times I 2 April 2009
Edward Alderton Theatre took on a huge challenge when bringing Oedipus the King to the Bexleyheath stage. Sadly, its impressive set and staging cannot hide fluffed lines and performances, writes Andrew Hodgson.
The Edward Alderton Theatre production of Sophocles' Oedipus picks up the story from his ascension to the throne. He lives with his beautiful wife Jocasta and children and is happy. What he does not realise is the tragic truth tainting all that is his. His world comes crashing down as he learns of the horrors which bore him to this point. The facts trickle agonizingly from the lips of those who know shards of this truly ignorantly sinful existence. He has killed his father and taken his throne; he has married the man's wife, who is his mother, and bred four children by her in the same bed which he himself was created in, of this same woman.
Oedipus enters kitted out in yacht attire. The chorus wear all black with lace white ruffs, the messenger wears a full tuxedo and Jocasta wears an oddly Grecian toga which jars with the rest of the cast, yet fits within the impressive set which is ornate and extravagant. Naturalist in approach, it is all red curtains and marble plinths, dominated by a table centre stage, the smell of incense is thick in the air. Two guards wear strange bellboy-red waistcoats and seem to not really know why they are there.
After being met with such impressive set design it is extremely disappointing to be met with such slack acting. Not a single cast member could remember their lines; instead of the words of Creon, I overheard backstage again: "He's bodged it again." Steve Padgham as Oedipus spluttered his lines like Bogart after a few too many espressos, although I did enjoy the scene in which he blinds himself. Reminiscent of some horror B-movie, as the lightning flashes of crimson and a backing track of 1980s electro-organs play him in, he screams and blood splatters. It was as if Bella Lugosi had made an appearance.
The play closes with the entrance of what seem to be diseased villagers, however after earlier demonstrations of horror, their shadow-skulking is reminiscent more of zombies. Although understandably a small-time production - albeit with an incredibly impressive set design - I attended five days into its run and the cast still didn't know their lines. If the old half cripple with the one line, the five word catalyst - his sole reason to be on stage - doesn't know his role by then, then heavens knows what preparations had been made for this challenging rendition.
News Shopper I 1 April 2009
I saw this production on the same night as this so-called critic [Andrew Hodgson, see above]. And I have no idea what production he saw. Unless of course he is the guy that came in after the interval. If it is, his critique hold little sway. The production was high quality and the acting was of an equally high standard, yes there were some fluffed bits and some garbled delivery. But not as devastating, or distracting as this 'critic' suggests. This critique is unfair and unbalanced and not a true reflection of this show.
Obviously this 'critic' is trying to make a name for himself by trying to be objectionable in his reviews, however, there is little to substantiate his review. Criticism of the costumes were inaccurate to say the least. To focus on the acting, Steve Padgham as Oedipus portrayed a king whose neurosis culminated in a powerful climax, and the scenes between he and Creon (which your reviewer missed by only attending the second half) were superbly acted by both actors and were the highlight of the production.
As Jocasta, Eileen Warner rose well to the challenge of playing wife and mother of the unfortunate Oedipus with great aplomb. The strongest performer for me was Richard Banks as Creon. His portrayal was well timed, emotional and powerful, yet tender and touching when comforting the two little princesses. The cast were superb throughout the play, from the leads down to the youngest children, playing plague victims and other roles between them.
A production like this is always a challenge, and this production rose to many of the challenges to provide an excellent night's entertainment. Well done to everyone involved, and ignore the inaccurate, biased and obscure review on the website.
Anonymous I 2 April 2009
I would like to write a review of this review [ see above ]. At first, I thought that this might be inappropriate, for I might be accused of taking it personally. However, since all my lines were in the first act, before the reviewer had even arrived on the premises, how could I be?
I would start by saying that I do not blame Mr Hodgson for being late. Some members of the cast were also delayed by transport problems in London that night, but I do think that he could have let readers know that his review was based on seeing the second act only. That might go some way, if not all, towards explaining his ignorance. He arrived after I had already left the stage, quite reasonably not expecting to get into the auditorium before the interval, by which time several others had completed their roles or the major portion of them.
I take each paragraph in turn, so as not to miss commenting on any of Mr Hodgson’s masterpiece.
Mr Hodgson’s introductory paragraph probably falls into the category of opinion so, although I consider it to be unfair, I will make no other comment. His second is one sentence long and contains, possibly, two errors. He says that the story is picked up from Oedipus’ ascension to the throne, whereas it actually starts from several years later. But then how would he know that, he wasn’t there! Also, by his specific reference to where our production picks up the story, he appears to be ignorant of the fact that this is where Sophocles’ play actually begins.
The next three paragraphs are simply story summary, and are accurate and well written. When he writes “Oedipus enters…”, he presumably means for the second act, not having been there for the first, and if he perceives the white suit to be “yachting attire” then so be it. The first messenger’s tuxedo is representative of his successful rising to be an ambassador for Corinth by contrast with his former colleague, who remains a lowly shepherd in old age, by choice as we are to discover. Jocasta’s costume is described as “an oddly Grecian toga”. “Oddly” indeed! It is a 21st century evening dress! Still, classic clothing can never go out of style, can it Mr Hodgson?
The attendants/guards, about whom Mr Hodgson splits an infinitive, indeed wore red waistcoats and did very well, considering problems we had with various falling sick, rarely having the same two on consecutive nights!
I am pleased that Mr Hodgson was impressed by the set but surprised by his reference to “slack acting”, which is at odds even with the opinions of some others who simply don’t like the genre. To state that “not a single cast member could remember their lines” is simply not true. I certainly got all mine but then, of course, Mr Hodgson wasn’t there yet. Furthermore, I was in the wings for much of the second act, during which time I heard no fluffed lines and certainly nobody saying “he’s bodged it again”. The second messenger/palace guard who describes the royal couple’s fate gets no mention in the review but definitely fluffed no lines.
Shock, horror! “Steve Padgham as Oedipus spluttered his lines…” unlike the calm, lucid, coherent speech we have all come to expect from a man who has just discovered that he murdered his father, married his mother, watched his wife hang herself and gouged out his own eyes before having his children taken away from him…Really, Oedipus, pull yourself together man!
Oh, and let’s not forget that Mr Hodgson only saw the portion of the play in which these things unfold, and missed Oedipus’ calm appraisal of the situation at the beginning and fiery argument with Creon at the end of the first act. At least Mr Hodgson enjoyed the scene in which Oedipus blinds himself: something which was observed by nobody else, since it occurred offstage. I think he means the part where Oedipus re-enters having blinded himself. If that entrance reminded the reviewer of a horror B-movie, then again, I cannot gainsay his opinion.
The play closes with the return of the plague victims. This was part of the symmetry of the piece, their having come to Oedipus for help at the beginning but, of course, Mr Hodgson wasn’t there for that. Briefly skipping forward to his final paragraph, I can only guess at to whom he refers as “the old half cripple with the one line” and, if I guess correctly, the stumbling, fumbling speech (of considerably more than one line) was the character’s reluctance to reveal what he knew would bring disaster. It’s called acting, young man!
An enormous amount of preparation had been made by a large cast and crew of people who do this while also, mostly, in full time employment or education. I suppose it is true that we were five days into our run but, there being no performance on the Sunday, Mr Hodgson attended our fourth, not fifth night (he wasn’t quite that late!) and, despite the inevitable occasional lapse during a seven night run, all the cast knew their lines and presented their roles “with professional ease”. This is attested to by the director’s delight, and by feedback from various audience members, including Classics or Drama teachers, and from journalists (see Kentish Times for alternative review).
I will put a couple of minor errors in the review down to typography, but the construction of his penultimate sentence/paragraph suggests that Mr Hodgson himself is “understandably a small-time production”. He should not be so harsh on himself: his liberal employment of misinformation and misrepresentation should stand him in good stead for a glittering career in journalism!
2 stars out of 5: that’s 40%; Mr Hodgson saw 45 minutes of 120, which is 37.5%. We were better than perfect!
Paul Friett | 2 April 2009
Regarding the comment system in use here; its a marvellous thing giving voice to those who perhaps may not be given the means. However for someone involved in a production to write a review of a review of their own play seems to me somewhat absurd. My name is Kassim Qureshi and I am Andrew's 'colleague' of the night, as you are fully aware I was there from the off. What you may not be aware of is that both Andrew and I are Literature and Philosophy graduates (and therefore classics by proxy), my particular penchant for theatre leading to my basing my further studies thus.
It strikes me somewhat odd also to be given the opportunity to be as pretentious and wordy as one wishes in a comment, however be restricted to laymans [sic] and 400 in the actual review. I'm not sure what qualifies you to pass any judgement whatsoever, however our opinion was consensus and I was with Andrew when he wrote the draft of this article. Misdemeanors in type you would know if ever working in journalism, or with the internet, tend to crop up through the passing of the article through various pairs of hands and it seems simply petty for you to choose this as a main push for your - well...what is it you are arguing other than the fact there were two people reviewing this rather than one?
This review is written for people who have not come in to contact with Sophocles before in mind and time has been taken to edit it thus. Your post is voided by your 'ignorance' as you so ironically choose in wording. Your cast knew it was covered and therefore can take on board an educated and outside opinion and grow from it. Either that or stew in their own frustration. Either way; so be it. Good luck with future productions, from the opinion of an avid theatre goer and an admirer of the classic tragedians, I can tell from your production and this amateurish retaliation - you're going to need it.
Kassim Qureshi I 2 April 2009
I saw this on the same night as your critic and we were obviously watching two very different plays. Firstly can I say that I went to see this because I was curious about the play and not expecting to enjoy it. I thought it was a very good performance. I take it from the previous gentleman's comments that the critic didn't see any of the first half of the play. Wouldn't it have been more honest to admit this in his critique or perhaps he should have returned the next night to see the half he missed? I think it wrong that he should slate a play when he has not seen in its entirety.
I did not hear any comments from backstage and I was at the front of the theatre, nor did I hear any prompts. If lines were fluffed may I remind your critic that this is live theatre, I've seen long-running shows in the West End where the rather more 'professional' casts have messed up spectacularly and not received the slating this troupe has. This was a good production, a fantastic set and very capable actors. It was a joy to see so many young members of the theatre group on stage, the ages ranging from 10 to 80+, and as for the plague victims - I can honestly say I wouldn't have wanted to go near any of them.
Zapphod I 2 April 2009
I fully agree that it was absurd for me to write a review of a review of a play in which I had been involved; I think I almost admitted that in my opening sentence. What was more absurd, however, was that I felt inclined to do it, since I have never responded to a review before. You see, what was even more absurd was that the review was written by someone who had not seen my part in it. And, if Andrew was relying on your advice with regard to the first act, you appear to have misled him for him to write that none of the cast knew their lines. Furthermore, that was not true of the second act either. I fully respect your superior education but do not consider it to be relevant here.
I am sorry if you feel that it was rather long for a comment and, to be honest, probably agree with you. As for its pretentiousness, yes it was, but those who know me would read it in the good humour in which it was intended. That's the problem with the written word: it so easily causes offence, without the smile or wink to convey its intent. ;)
Certainly, I do not feel qualified to judge your opinions or anyone else's, but do not believe that I have passed judgement on any opinion expressed, having specifically acknowledged difference of opinion and only taken issue with misrepresentation of fact. That was my main push (I specifically excused any typo misdemeanors): that most of the negativity was not opinion but misinformation and misrepresentation. I am sorry to repeat, but it simply is not true that we did not know our lines or that our preparation was inadequate. If you hated the costumes and even the acting, that is fine; it is your opinion and I conceded as much. But please do not undermine what was achieved and appreciated by many others.
You explain that the review was written for those with no previous knowledge of Sophocles and, as such Andrew's three paragraphs of plot summary were excellent: concise and accurate. If only Sophocles had been so concise we wouldn't have had to learn all those lines!
I am not sure to what you refer as my 'ignorance', but we are always happy to receive constructive criticism. However, destructive criticism is, funnily enough, destructive and I hope that my response, and the laughter it has generated, will help some of the younger members not to be upset by the review. And as for our having to take the bad reviews with the good, and the amateurishness of my response, therein you explain my right to write: you and Andrew are employed to put your views in writing and into the public domain and must take the criticism as well as the payment and kudos if, and I'm sure when, due.
Finally, thank you for your wishes of good luck for the future. As a small amateur theatre, despite the generally good and appreciative audiences and the Arts Council awards, we do indeed need it.
Paul Friett I 3 April 2009
Just to say that we are regular theatre goers both to our local amateur theatres and professional ones and we went to see this production on the Tuesday evening. I don't know which night the critic went but what a shame he didn't go on the same night as us. We thoroughly enjoyed the show and production - if enjoy can be the right word to use for a play such as this! Yes, there were some fluffed lines but I have to disagree about slack acting. A lot of hard work goes into all shows whether amateur or professional and it is always very disappointing when they are slated in this manner, particularly when so unfairly. I can only assume that having had such a horrendous journey to the theatre his views were coloured.
Anonymous I 4 April 2009