Oedipus, king of Thebes, embarks on discovering the killer of Laius who, according to the oracle, is responsible for the plague that has befallen his city. Along the way, he discovers that he himself is not only the one who killed the previous king of Thebes but also the murderer of his father and husband to his own mother. Once the tragic truth is revealed, Jocasta hangs herself and Oedipus takes out his eyes.
“Poor man, today you see light but tomorrow you’ll be seeing darkness”. With this prophecy by Tiresias, Sophocles builds the most masterful example of ancient drama: a play that starts with inexorable questions (who will resolve the divine impasses, what is the miasma that plagues the city, who is the killer of king Laius, who are the parents of Oedipus, who is Oedipus) and culminates in answers of absolute pain. “I was born of the wrong blood; I consorted with the wrong blood; the blood I should not have shed”.
A city under a pandemic
The main axis of the play is the connection of citizens and a city in a profound crisis. How topical is Sophocles’ tragedy in the 21st century, with humans’ unchecked intervention in nature and the punishment of their conceit by nature itself with a COVID-19 pandemic similar to the plague that hit Athens in the 5th century BC and obviously inspired Sophocles?
Thanasis Sarantos notes: “It is hard to dispute how current Oedipus Rex remains for our country at the present time. It is the tragedy of Knowledge and Self-awareness. The passions that unfold on stage, the crimes, the hatred, the self-destruction—all these are current. The people, organised or not, as the latter-day Chorus of an ancient tragedy, seeks a cure but also the plain truth. They demand transparent and fair decisions, a salvation from the country’s miasma before total destruction. The personality of Oedipus fits in perfectly, in every detail, with the model of a leader who slips towards autocracy in his effort to get to the terrible truth at any personal cost.”
In Oedipus, Sophocles portrays a king who verges on conceit, blinded by his ego and his excessive reliance on the power of reason, which in themselves can lead him to hubris and thence to the fall, and at the same time a man denuded, alone before the unanswerable existential question—“who am I?”
He is forced to act in order to justify his human nature, but is unable to predict the disastrous effects of his actions.
Oedipus Rex aptly demonstrates man’s age-old tendency to ascribe all misfortunes to planetary imbalances or divine retribution, when in fact they are caused by human greed or vanity.
Translation: Minos Volanakis
Direction- Dramaturgy – Lighting: Thanasis Sarantos
Music – Sound design: Constantinos Evangelidis
Stage sets – Costumes: Assi Dimitrolopoulou
Kinesiology: Plotinos Iliadis
Voice training: Nikos Panagiotopoulos
Video Art: Dionysis Sidirokastritis
Assistant director: Makis Nanos
Lighting Assistant: Stevi Koutsothanasi
Makeup: Olga Falei
Photography: Constantinos Lepouris
Trailer: Stefanos Kosmidis
Production: Ithikon Akmeotaton
Promotion& communication: Vasso Sotiriou-WeWill
Cast: Mania Papadimitriou (Jocasta – Tiresias), Thanasis Sarantos (Oedipus), Christodoulos Stylianou (Creon), Paris Skartsolias (Messenger-Chorus), Alexandros Tountas (Messenger-Chorus), Vangelis Psomas (Shepherd-Chorus), Nikos Poloziannis (Priest-Chorus).
Shows: from 21 February, every Monday and Tuesday until 25 April 2023; Apo Mixanis Theatre (Akadimou 13, Athens).
The show has received a grant from the Ministry of Culture and financial support from the J. F. Costopoulos Foundation.