Oedipus Rex by Sophocles, trans. Paul Roches. The Acting Company directed by Estelle Muspratt. Hawk Theatre, Narrabundah College8 pm May 15-19, 2001.
"You see here young and old clustered round the shrine. Fledglings some, essaying flight ... and striplings some - ambassadors of youth." Like a modern Oedipus, Muspratt represents the creation of good order among these largely youthful actors. Her search for the truth, which she describes as "taking the simplest tack I can - telling a story" is as effective as Oedipus' insistence on discovering the truth about himself - how he murdered his father and married his mother, just as the gods had ordained. Fortunately the results for Muspratt are anything but dire.
Several colleges over the years have sought to establish post-college theatre groups for their drama graduates, but The Acting Company has been the most long-standing (since 1989) and successful, with Barbra Barnett the current Artistic Director. This cast includes students at Narrabundah, ANU, Canberra School of Music and UC, while Muspratt is herself a product of Narrabundah and ANU, with a swag of successful work and a Canberra Critics' Circle Award as an emerging force in local theatre.
This production edges a little too close to the drama "workshop" style, and some actors' technical skills in language articulation require more training, but the simplicity of design, the use of group movement and chorused voices, and especially the timing of silences, makes for a sincerity and clarity in telling the story which allows the horror of Oedipus' terrible dilemma to stand out boldly in relief. Though nothing can stand up to the last great production I saw of Oedipus Rex - by Sir John Gielgud - at least this is moving in the right direction, and left the audience on opening night quite silent at the end, as it should.
Muspratt, 10 years on from College, has set herself the objective of demonstrating by her own example to those following her, a belief in theatre work in and for Canberra. This production, of a classic mythic play of such large universal implications for how we should live in society - elucidating and facing up to truth - is a worthy project for The Acting Company.
© Frank McKone M.A., F.A.C.E.
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