St Andrews’ own performing arts fund, the Mermaids recently performed an adaptation of the infamous Greek tragedy and myth, Oedipus. Through a skewed chronology and fluid character development, Gabrielle Uboldi took the well known story and altered it to emphasise the incestuous and corrupted aspects associated with politics.
As you entered the Byre, the stage was open with actors pacing around the tarp-covered set to the beat of the live DJ, Zoe Ruki. Those not dashing about, slowly uncovering the props, sat amongst the audience. I have to admit, at the first sight of actor-audience engagement, I had instant flashbacks to my rather scarring experience during the production Cats. However, I am happy to announce that the actors and actresses did not interact directly with the audience, rather acted in such a way to include us in the opening scene. This was very intriguing as it instantaneously grabbed the attention of the already confused attendees. This proved essential because the play had a skewed sense of time and at moments, it became difficult to follow; Uboldi purposefully rearranged the progression of the storyline to accentuate the notion that corruption can happen during any time.
In addition to the unorthodox chronology of Oedipus Rex, the character of Oedipus himself was played by four actors/actresses represented by a white overcoat: Isabelle Cory, Charles Vivian, Miriam Woods, and Martin Caforio. Cory and Caforio were particularly engaging as they had a true command of the confused nature of Oedipus; they managed to hone-in on Oedipus’ sporadic and perturbed antics to portray how political corruption can disillusion an individual.
Other notable members of Uboldi’s rendition of Oedipus Rex were Martina Sardelli (Jocasta) and the ‘Morning Show’ hosts, Charles Vivian and Sophia Kiely, who provided the much needed comic relief amidst this dark and confusing tragedy. With unparalleled enthusiasm and the occasionally awkward audience engagement, these two helped regather the audience’s focus and provided plot clarification. Sardelli played what seemed to be the ‘face of corruption’ as Jocasta was at the forefront of all of the political turmoil throughout Oedipus Rex. She was able to flawlessly break down in front of the audience one scene and regather herself to jump back to playing a manipulating lover in another.
Oedipus Rex was a weird play, there is no getting around that fact. To be completely transparent, I was rather confused by the majority of the performance. At any given moment, one of the Oedipuses would be in an interrogation and in the next scene, there were seemingly pointless musical dance numbers. It was not until the ending that the plot and chronology fit together to provide some clarity about what was actually happening in front of the audience. If you did not know the storyline of the original Oedipus, this performance would have been very difficult to enjoy as you would be confused the entire time, as noted by the girls sitting next to me. Luckily, an English teacher or two had drilled this tragedy into my brain time and time again, so I was fortunate enough to have that ‘ah-ha’ moment at the very end of the Mermaid’s rendition. If it were not for the constant confusion, this play could have been one of my favourite productions that I have seen thus far, simply due to its obscure nature and the quality of the actors and actresses.