Written & Directed by Mella Faye
Music by Pecho Mama (Don Bird, Mella Faye, Alex Stanford)
A Greek Tragedy isn’t meant to be a pleasant journey. The name gives it away a tad. And yet, the pleasure extracted from well-performed bouts of misery or grave devastation can, if handled correctly, provide a wealth of marvel and ingenuity.
The fable of Oedipus. The Mother. The Father. The Son. Many have a base grasp of the idea; of the boy who would become king, slayer of his father, and lover of his mother. But now, radicalising the text, reinventing it for a contemporary and digestible re-telling, Pecho Mama infuse the story with a live Electronica score, and a more familiar locale in the grit of London.
Enviable, the meticulous stagecraft at work within performer, writer, and director Mella Faye’s mind – to conjure such demons which plague the mournful yet dogged, is without question the driving force which maintains the visceral and breathtakingly sublime execution of both written language and music.
Faye’s adaptation possesses a willingness to open audiences to the beating, twitching heart of Greek tragedy, and rather than supplement a fashionable or censored ideology, manipulates the more morose (and let’s be honest, incestuous) aspects of the script into a vulnerable state of the human psyche – telling the tale from the angle of a playwright struggling with her deadline before tragedy unfolds around her.
This tale of death, want, and angst is framed by Don Bird’s terrific rhythm with the drums, often synching with the heartbeat of the audience as the tension rises – while Alex Stanford’s keyboard brings a sharper, electronic aura to both the score and sound design of the show.
Metatextual but to a tidier and more accessible degree, Oedipus Electronica follows the skeleton of the King of Thebes – restructured to be told through the eyes of an older woman. Fittingly, as a writer (and sound and set designer), Faye branches into the performance of her craft – becoming Jocasta, mother of Oedipus, and the scribe of all which happens through the show, revelling in the murk she weaves.
This furious, gut-ripping love/hate letter to the art of writing and authorship balances the delicacy and struggles of parenthood (both literal and metaphorically) with a perverse yet masterfully performed balance of craven desire and a nurturing, motherly manner. Initially, Faye’s performance feels reserved, but it belays the truth of the woman inside, fighting with her convictions as she combats a need to erupt and stand out against the image of the older woman in Greek (and contemporary) myth.
Equally, Ryan David Harston as Oedipus and Kwame Bentil as his father Laius bring a necessary masculine force without the necessity of chest beats or overtly bravado behaviour. Bentil is a sympathetic character as a struggling father with a past, while Harston is an explosively aggressive young Oedipus, a man confused to his past, seeking to prosper in his future. The chemistry both share with Faye is tangible, with amped danger prevalent in the uneasy relationship Faye and Harston manifest.
This is not a sporadic choice Fringe show, this hedonistic re-telling of Oedipus takes no issue with swirling itself in the filth which Faye writes. The merging of live electronica music with classical text is a delicate endeavour but results in a show which is a beguiling thriller which thrives as much on ecstasy as it does anguish.
Oedipus Electronica runs at the Pleasance Courtyard until August 26th
Tickets for which may be obtained here.
Photo Credit – Jo Thorne