Photos – Rob Maccoll
Blood, as Stoppard's tragedian says, is compulsory.
The auditorium at the Playhouse goes dark for a moment before the curtain shoots into the fly tower and two women wearing white are flooded with blinding white light in front of a white backdrop and a white stage. The audience gasps as their eyes react to the onslaught and giggle a little while they wait for something to happen.
In the moments that follow, these two women commit suicide nine times, and homicide at approximately the same rate. It is gory and funny and raw and engaging. And then the action stops while the stage is mopped. Despite the humour in even this ritual, the length of time required for the stage to be safe again destroys the established engagement, and when the two women return, still in white but now white stained with red blood spatters and carrying microphones instead of weapons, the energy has gone, and they don't quite manage to restore it.
They explain, as does the promotional material, that the show is about death. Not grieving or celebrating death, but about experiencing death and how the canon of theatre has portrayed it.
These performers and more-local-actors-than-I-managed-to-count deliver many noteworthy moments, drawing on classical theatre texts and modern cultural references. Some are pure slapstick, some more cerebral, and many are strangely haunting. But it doesn't really increase my awareness of theatrical deaths, nor does it fill me with fear, excitement or intrigue about how my own will come.
Despite an intriguing premise, fine comic moments, an insight or two and a very talented cast (both the principals and the local supporting actors), Oedipus Schmoedipus failed to impress me. The show, while never intended to be a story, needed a narrative or some kind of spine to hang its flesh on. Clever moments of humour, suspense or reverie are all well and good, but to be truly engaging, it wanted something that held the attention from its marvellously engaging opening to its haunting ending. Because it lacked this, it just didn't deliver on its promise.
Blood is indeed compulsory, but blood wants reason. Without reason, it's just red stuff to mop off the stage.
by Zoë Coombs Marr, Mish Grigor & Natalie Rose
Directors Zoë Coombs Marr and Mish Grigor
Venue: Canberra Theatre Centre | Civic Square, London Circuit, Canberra
Dates: 14 – 15 March 2018
Tickets: $45 – $30