The National Theatre of Greece and Vakhtangov Theatre chose “Οedipus the King” (known by its Latin title Οedipus Rex, around 429 B.C.), the tragedy of tragedies, the masterpiece of Sophocles, for their first cooperation. The performance was presented in the Ancient Theatre of Epidaurus in July and in the Odeon of Herodes Atticus on September the 22nd. The play will also be staged in Moscow this September. The most interesting point of this show is, without a doubt, the fact that this co-production features both Greek and Russian actors under the orders and perspective of Lithuanian director Rimas Tuminas. A multilanguage and multicultural view on a play, which perhaps is the most emblematic ancient drama of them all.
The play starts with the supplicants who are flocking to the palace of Thebes to beg King Oedipus to come to the people’s aid. A plague has ravaged the city and decimated its population. The King has requested advice from the Oracle at Delphi. Apollo foresees that there will be no respite until the person responsible for the death of King Laius is found and expelled from the city. Oedipus begins his tragic investigation and uncovers the truth; the man who saved Thebes from the Sphinx, the man who polluted it with his deeds is Oedipus. The old prophesy has come to pass. Fate is inexorable although Oedipus tries to change its course in order to avoid prophesy. When Jocasta realizes that the old prophesy has come true and she has married her son, who has unknowingly killed his father, she goes into to palace and commits suicide. When Oedipus sees his mother dead, takes the cotter pins of her dress and drives them into his eyes. The blind hero is the most tragic figure of the play.
The direction of Rimas Tuminas tries to combine both Russian and Greek cultures and that is a very difficult bet as the tragedy, an ancient Greek drama, could be inherently closer to the Greek actors’ education. Despite this fact, Rimas Tuminas managed both to showcase the Russian acting style via the show and to show a different perspective of the play. The main characters (played by Russian actors) according to Rimas Tuminas were more epic than we usually see in Greek performances. On the other hand, the chorus that consisted of Greek actors (except from the leader), representing the public opinion, was lyrical and emotional. This difference, between the choral parts and the dramatic parts, was intensified by the respectively different musical compositions (Composer: Faustas Latenas, Composer of choral parts: Theodore Abazis).
In conclusion, Οedipus Rex directed by Rimas Tuminas is a significant theatrical moment. It is in spite of the differences in acting styles and training, and not despite them that many interesting points of this work come to light. It’s a co-operation with visibly varied views and energy. At times this manifold energy is magical, while at times this difference in pace is an obstacle.
Anyway, this show is, without a doubt, one of most interesting and remarkable theatre choices, as it manages not only to “read” the myth of Oedipus through our modern view, but also to decode the myth through the modern Russian, Greek and Lithuanian theatrical languages.