The Misconception of Oedipus | Malthouse TheatreLeft – Richard Pyros. Cover – Daniel Schlusser. Photos – Jeff-Busby

The tragedy of Oedipus and his unavoidable fate has fascinated and repulsed audiences since its conception in ancient Greek mythology. Sophocles' play about the young man destined to kill his father and marry his mother has been used in poetry, drama and psychology throughout the ages and is the basis of Sigmund Freud's "Oedipal Complex" (Freud's theory of a child's competition with their father to posses their mother).

With such a rich history and continued influence on modern culture, director Matthew Lutton has explored the events that occurred before Oedipus' conception. Oedipus' parents Laius (played by Daniel Schlusser) and Jocasta (Natasha Herbert) recount the story of how Oedipus came to be brought into this world, an almost innocent tale of a young couple unable to conceive and the void it left in their psyche.

When Laius hears of the prophecy that a son born to him will be his own demise he is determined to avoid certain death and makes Jocasta promise they will never bear children. She agrees and then promptly deceives Laius, plying him with alcohol and seducing his unguarded form. After his son is born into the world, Laius proceeds to remove him from existence, convincing his wife there was never a child, nor will there ever be. This is the moment when the audience leaves the "prequel" of Oedipus and the oft told myth resumes its terrible conclusion.

Both modernised and stripped down, the action takes place on a fishbowl like stage. The audience peers in as the characters' struggles are exposed, and await the terrifying end to this story. Schlusser plays the role of Laius beautifully, his angry rants and irrational fears fall as elegantly as prose and his wife's sincere frustration is evident, as is her distress at losing her only child and being made to look mad.

However this is Oedipus' story and Richard Pyros as the title character is the star. Both darkly funny, and all together frightening, he is utterly despicable while on the surface, completely normal.

The Misconception of Oedipus is a difficult play to like. Each character has so many flaws and unlikable characteristics, the only emotion apart from disgust you can muster is pity. However, the story is inventive, the actors emotionally compelling and the execution unique. What it fails to do is reach much further than the stage, perhaps it is because the audience is already aware of the tragic ending or maybe because we want to distance ourselves from the atrocity's that are about to occur. Whatever it may be, The Misconception of Oedipus will disturb and unnerve you, questioning and breaking the very laws of human nature.

Malthouse Theatre presents
devised by Zoe Atkinson, Matthew Lutton and Tom Wright | text Tom Wright

Directed by Matthew Lutton

Venue: Beckett Theatre
Dates: August 10 - August 25, 2012
Tickets: $41 - 58
Bookings: | 03 9685 5111

Co-produced with Perth Theatre Company

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