Based on Steven Berkoff’s riff on Sophocles’ Oedipus Rex, Greek has fast forwarded the story from Thebes, 429 BC to the Tufnell Park in the 1980s.
Mark-Anthony Turnage’s work, while labelled as modern opera is celebrating its 30th anniversary, and while the shock of the new may have worn off in the intervening years, it still packs a hugely entertaining punch visually and aurally. Though, those with a delicate stomach might want to give it a wide berth thanks to Dick Straker’s live video projections which include a stomach-turning greasy spoon breakfast complete with live maggots and those offended by fowl language be warned there’s plenty of effing and blinding.
While cleverly adapted to suit modern sensibilities, the fundamentals remain the same: our hero Eddy, clad in a tomato red Adidas 3-stripe tracksuit leaves behind the ‘cess pit’ of the East End to avoid fulfilling the prophecy of a fortune teller who predicts his father will die a violent death and he’ll ‘bunk up with his mum’.
Johannes Schutz’s set design comprising an enormous, white rectangular revolve with two door openings, focusses all the attention firmly up front and centre stage. Alex Lowde’s comical costume designs add to the almost vaudevillian feeling of the piece.
The cast of four (three of whom, Allison Cook, Susan Bullock and Henry Waddington, double, triple and quadruple up on roles) keep the interest and entertainment up throughout. There are however a few issues with projection, even from just a few rows back it sounds underpowered. That said, it doesn’t detract from the fact that this it remains hugely entertaining throughout.
Young conductor Finnegan Downie Dear, keeps the orchestra on point and sustains the creeping menace in the music for the duration.
Subtle it isn’t, but it is a thoroughly engaging, bawdy and bold, small but perfectly formed 80 minute breath of fresh air on the opera landscape.
Images: Jane Hobson