Breathing new life into Sophocles

Ben Kgosimore is Oedipus. Photograph by Ruphin Coudyzer.

Ben Kgosimore is Oedipus. Photograph by Ruphin Coudyzer.

It’s so unnerving and exciting and wonderful to see young performers cutting their teeth in the richness and darkness of Greek classical tragedy that you quickly overlook student faux pas and get swept away by the creative enthusiasm in this rough but thoughtful rendition of Sophocles’ Oedipus.

There are moments, glances, and turns of phrase in this production that suddenly force you to look at the young performers with a different eye. The work is not consistently polished, but there are quirks to it, and the interface between the narrative, the performance and the design is often so close it takes your breath away.

Featuring some very thoughtful shadow work, which lends the piece a depth of focus that stretches beyond the rather nasty confines of the Amphitheatre, and excellent use of reflections and mirrors, the work turns on its own pivot with unmessy simplicity.

The classic tale of the man who, through no fault of his own, kills his father and sleeps with his mother and then puts his own eyes out when he discovers the enormity of the tragedy, is handled with dignity and a respect on the part of this young cast, with a stand out performance by Daniel Geddes, who embodies the idea of being wounded, being blind and being elderly with a unique and internal sense of fire that is convincing and beautiful. And it’s a dignity and respect which is informed and mature rather than paralysing. Thus Sophocles lives into another generation.

Where text is used, in the set and in the costumes, the work begins to teeter on the side of being too academic and you don’t feel sufficiently pressurised in the audience to try and read the projected text or engage with the work on this level. Rather, it is the manner in which chorus members usher the audience into the performance space, the use of repetition and the tasting of phrases and words as though they were delicacies, on the tongues of the performers, that causes much of it to soar.

When this doesn’t happen, the work quickly becomes soporific, given its density, but this is not a frequent occurrence: the main thrust of this heavy but well understood piece, is handled with a sense of sophistication that reaches beyond the students’ status as such. As the drama begins to unfold, you lose all sense of time, and while the piece is relatively short, it sucks you in to its universe almost completely.


The chorus and Jocasta: Emma Tollman; Sizi Keke and Nicola Pilkington. Photograph by Ruphin Coudyzer.

The chorus and Jocasta: Emma Tollman; Sizi Keke and Nicola Pilkington. Photograph by Ruphin Coudyzer.

  • I, Oedipus, a fourth year research project, is facilitated by Sarah Roberts, features production design by Camille Behrens; Catherine Dickinson; Kaimini Soobben; and Andrea van der Kuil. It is performed by Daniel Geddes; Ben Kgosimore; Mark Tatham; Sizi Keke; Nicola Pilkington; and Emma Tollman and is at  the Wits Amphitheatre until May 17(011)717-1376.

Leave a Reply