Tuesday, 18 November 2008

Motherfuckers gonna drop the pressure

Saw Oedipus at the National Theatre this evening, starring dear dear old Ralphie Fiennes as the titular (and, frankly, tit-u-titter-at) Theban boy who loved his mother.

First time I've actually seen a Greek tragedy performed, and possibly the last. Not a great many laughs - not intentional, anyway - and little suspense. I spent much of the play thinking "oh for fuck's sake, how many hints do you need?" in response to Oedipus's phenomenal slowness on the uptake. Mind you, the clue's in the name, innit? I might as well criticise Shakespeare for being full of clichés.

The set was beautiful, a big, slowly revolving disc of tarnished bronze with an enormous set of double doors in the same verdigris. The all-male chorus was good too, vaguely reminiscent of a Welsh male voice choir when they burst into song. I liked the way the three shepherds (well, two shepherds and a messenger) echoed the three ages of Man, the answer to Oedipus's earlier answering of the Sphinx's riddle.

Ralphie himself was okay, possibly a touch hammy. For some reason, I've always found it difficult to warm to him as an actor and bits of Oedipus seemed overdone to the point where the audience was giggling. He had a tendency to leave odd ac-torly gaps in his phrasing and the bit at the end where he crawled around, blinded, seemed to go on forever. Clare Higgins as Jocasta was subtler in her mumsy grief; I found myself watching her quieter but somehow more expressive gestures. Mind you, she'll always stick in my mind as Julia, the blood-smeared yuppie from Hellraiser.

Our homeward Tube was stuck in a tunnel for maybe fifteen, twenty minutes because the driver of a train in front had felt unwell then collapsed. Considerate of him to do it in a station. A substitute driver had to be called. I twiddled my thumbs, while TSB commented loudly on which colours of nail polish might suit me rather than the coppery apricot I sported for Liverpool Is Burning.

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