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Man is condemned to be free; because once thrown into the world, he is responsible for everything he does. Everything has been figured out, except how to live. One always dies too soon or too late. And yet, life is there, finished. The line is drawn, and it must all be added up. You are nothing other than your life. There is only one day left, always starting over. It is given to us at dawn and taken away from us at dusk. We do not know what we want and yet we are responsible for what we are, that is the fact. When you live alone you no longer know what it is to tell a story: the plausible disappears at the same time as the friends. You let events flow by too.Suddenly you see people appear who speak and then go away; you plunge into stories of which you can't make head or tail. You'd make a terrible witness. It is true that people who live in society have learned how to see themselves in mirrors as they appear to their friends. Luckily, I only have a few...

Dr Shaw is a lecturer in Further Education at Edge Hill University, Ormskirk. She also offers philosophy courses at the School of Continuing Education, Lifelong learning, at the University of Liverpool. In 2015, she has completed her Doctorate in philosophy with a focus on existentialism, the equilibrium doctrine and narrative. She has worked as a teacher of English and Comparative literature and Philosophy at The American University in Cairo, Egypt where she also obtained her BA (Hons). Dr Shaw has an MA in Philosophy and Literature from the University of East Anglia where she also taught on a number of humanities subjects. Whilst working in North Wales in Further education, she gained a PGCE aimed at teaching in FE and HE sectors. Dr Shaw moved to Liverpool in 2010 where she now resides.

Interests: Existentialism, Narrative, Comparative Literature, Feminist Thought, Public Speaking, Arab Existentialism, Philosophy of Education, Art, Music, Film and Theatre, Greek Mythology, Existential counsellor and psychotherapist.

https://liverpool.academia.edu/ShereenHamedShaw

Friday, 18 March 2011

Steven Berkoff's King Oedipus at Liverpool Playhouse

In an exciting intriguing performance, King Oedipus (played by Simon Merrells), torn between unravelling his own life story and dismissing all doubts, makes a strong claim against Creon (Vincenzo Nicoli)- his wife's brother in the first scene of the play: 

"Creon, the soul of trust, my loyal friend from the start steals against me... so hungry to overthrow me he sets this wizard on me, this scheming quack, this fortune-teller peddling lies, eyes peeled for his own profit--seer blind in his craft!"

I was lucky enough to get a free ticket from Everyman theatre to attend the play in Liverpool's Playhouse. The playhouse itself is breathtaking with its high colourful ceiling and wall paper, a perfect setting for a great tragedy to unfold.


Steven Berkoff's retelling of the story brings to life the complexity of emotions that Oedipus goes through as a king who is faced expected to rule, as a husband expected to support his wife, a son who is longing for a mother, a friend who fears betrayal, and most of all a self lost in its own misery seeking self realisation and recognition from others.
As the tragedy unfolds, he realises the curse upon him as a dammed soul by the Gods. Unable to change the course of his own life, no  matter how much he tried in the past, he falls a victim of his own doing and consequently, he takes his own sight in the final scene as the truth becomes unbearable.

"O god-all come true, all burst to light!  O light-now let me look my last on you!  I stand revealed at last-cursed in my birth, cursed in marriage, cursed in the lives I cut down with these hands!" 

The most interesting and thought provoking thing about this play, in my opinion, is the role of the chorus. Having re-written and directed a few Greek tragedies myself like Medea and Pygamalion, I find that Berkoff's version of the play gave the chorus a more fundemental role more than the protagonist and other characters that at some scenes where overshadowed by the chorus' contemporary movements. Do I like this? I found myself wondering as I watched with wide eyes glowing in fascination. I think I Do! Does it work? Well, to many it did not- on various occasions throughout the play, the girl beside me kept whispering her frustration. I tried to avoid listening "politely" saying that it will all fall into place at the end and that she should be patient...
I was so captured by the play that I felt that Berkoff's play was only staged for me and only me. No other audience present but me. The musical scenes where interesting enough and relevant to the course of events unfolding. One criticism though is the choice of using "Zorba" in specific as Greek music in one of the scenes. A stereotypical mistake perhaps...? The sound of the accordion playing as the chorus moved about on the stage receiting various versus from the original script with a modern twist made my day! I could have watched the 8 chorus alone for another 4 hours non stop. So the question remains: did the chorus steal the main roles? Was the protagonist overshadowed by their performances? the answer has to be "Yes" from me.
Oedipus' wife/mother (Louise Jameson as Jocasta) was not I am afraid as strong as I would have liked her to be- compared to the Oedipus whose performance was superub conveying his aggression and arrogance. She moved, not like a queen, but as a defeated queeen from start to end not allowing the audience to feel the transition from not knowing that she is the one who gave Oedipus the child away, to realising that she has bedded her own child. There was something lacking, missing and truely to me, frustrating.
Again credit to Barkoff's directions, the chorus did a marvelous role in tying together the left pieces of the tragedy in a fun enjoyable way whilst conveying the main characters' thoughts, fears and worries. This gave the performance another dimension and proved that the tale is indeed timeless.

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