Oedipus Schmoedipus (Belvoir, Sydney)

What do the critics think of Oedipus Schmoedipus? We review the reviews.

Show times: Tue 6.30pm; Wed 4pm & 8pm; Thu-Fri 8pm; Sat 4pm & 8pm; Sun 5pm Book tickets 

The low-down

Thrown together by theatre collective post (Zoë Coombs Marr, Mish Grigor and Natalie Rose), Oedipus Schmoedipus takes the death scenes from over 100 of the greatest plays of the 2000 years and throws them together into an 80 minute piece. As part of Sydney Festival, the work uses a different group of volunteer, mostly amateur performers each night (who are given three hours rehearsal). The three women of post are aiming to take on the “great whites males” who have dominated theatre throughout history.

Our verdict

Oedipus Schmoedipus runs a little off the rails, but you’ll enjoy part of the ride. And some provocative questions are raised. Inconsistency is the price we’ll pay if we’re to afford greatly talented people the room to experiment. READ OUR REVIEW

What the other critics say

After a solid season (critically speaking) in 2013, this was probably not the launchpad Belvoir was wanting for 2014. The consensus seems to be that given the potential in the themes it deals with, Oedipus Schmoedipus is disappointingly shallow. Critics have all noted that the violence in the opening scene is particularly confronting, and most have applauded the use of volunteers (in fact, Jason Blake said in Sydney Morning Herald that their presence lifted him from what was, until their appearance, “one of the worst theatrical experiences of [his] life.”) Consensus rating: 5/10

“The show opens with its best scene – a series of extremely bloody deaths performed by Coombs Marr and Grigor. You can see all the tricks and the spraying gouts of blood, but it is still shockingly funny to watch. After the blood has been mopped up, there are some very boring scenes of speculation about the pop fact that we’re all going to die, overfull of punning wordplay.” John McCallum, The Australian

“The volunteers are nothing more than flesh puppets in the scheme of things but in their efforts to do right by the show’s creators, and because they are always looking hopefully upwards for their next cue, they take on a weirdly dignified air. As the show stumbles on, each person unavoidably transmits something genuine, which serves to offset – then overwhelm – the drop-dead irony, triviality and feigned ignorance residing elsewhere in this work.” Jason Blake, Sydney Morning Herald

“Don’t expect any profound insights in Oedipus Schoepidus: it rarely goes any deeper than the ironic laugh. But do expect to be impressed by the organisational effort that has gone into it. Public participation on this scale is a rare thing in mainstream theatre. Rare, too, is the amount of technical stage trickery employed during the show’s prologue, arguably the most violent scene ever to play out on the Belvoir stage. ” Nick Dent, Time Out Sydney

“Ultimately, though, that potential for something emotionally resonant is always there, and it’s easy to feel a little let down by something that refuses to engage – like dealing with that frustrating, emotionally detached loved one in your life that you just want to open up and really talk to you. It’s this surface-skimming  approach – to present, not examine, the role of death in theatre and in life, that makes this show disappointing. For a show so covered in blood, it sure is bloodless.” Cassie Tongue, AussieTheatre

Oedipus Schmoedipus is a cross between a crappy parlour game and really bad charades. It is a startlingly early front-runner in the Every Breath Stakes for worst show of the year..” Diana Simmonds, Stagenoise

Verdict

Bloody and violent with moments of intrigue, but ultimately disappointing.

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