King Oedipus is the perfect tragedy. In the wake of many before him, Robert Icke – who previously rewrote the Oresteia in London in a magnificent way – directs his own contemporary, free adaptation.
International and Dutch tour
Duration: 2 hrs, no intermission
About the play
The plague is making its way through Thebes. The oracle says the city
is doomed because the murder of King Laius has remained unpunished. His
successor Oedipus wants to free the people, who suffer greatly, of this
curse. He leads the investigation personally. This is not the first
time for Oedipus. He previously solved the riddle of the sphinx. He is
determined to leave no stone unturned. The outcome is devastating: to
everyone’s great dismay – not in the least his own – Oedipus himself
turns out to be the culprit
Sophocles’s most famous tragedy is the first story about crime and punishment. But just how guilty is Oedipus? He fled from his supposed parents when the oracle predicted he would kill his father and marry his mother. He killed Laius, whom he did not know, out of self-defense. Jocasta was offered to him for marriage after he freed Thebes from the sphinx. What is he to blame for? Oedipus did all he could to escape fate. The startling conclusion is that none of it has made a difference: the course of his life was predetermined and he will be punished no matter what.
Oedipus’s quest is full of surprising twists. This turns the story into a chilling thriller. It is impossible not to be affected while watching someone head towards his demise while being determined to discover the truth. Oedipus is much more than the story of a man who has looked but not seen. The age-old attraction will always be how recognizable his fate is: the vulnerability of existence. And the fact that it is nearly impossible to control our lives and fortune.
'Director Robert Icke has made this Oedipus into a Greek tragedy that gives shape to modern times. A couple of subtle shifts in the plot have made the play about finding the truth, which makes it contemporary without it being prominently fixed to a certain time. Due to a refreshingly new perspective, you start to see Oedipus in a different way, which gives the play added value. It's beautiful how text and design can change the focus to the human measure. The adaptation from the heart of the play makes this Oedipus unique and adds something to all the previous plays.' - Jury Dutch Theatre Festival
Robert Icke decided to become a playwright and director after he had been torn away from his PlayStation by his father as a teenager and saw a performance of Richard III, with Kenneth Branagh in the title role. Now – only 30 years old – he is regarded as a great young talent in British theatre. For some time now, he has been an associate director at the Almeida in London, the famous theatre that used to be led by Pierre Audi before he came to Amsterdam.
Hildegard Maria Bechtler (1951) is an award-winning designer based in London and working internationally. As well as Oedipus for the ITA ensemble, Hildegard has collaborated with director Robert Icke on the acclaimed Almeida Theatre productions of Hamlet, Mary Stuart and Oresteia (all of which transferred to London’s West End) and Uncle Vanya.
Robert Icke about Oedipus
‘Since the beginning, both audience and artists have been fascinated by Oedipus: he story of a man who, in his success, exceeded limits, only to find out that he had crossed the most fundamental of boundaries in doing so. I am fascinated by the way plays can make genres explode, just like events can make lives explode. Aristotle’s notion of the ‘hamartánein’ – that which makes the protagonist meet his doom – is often translated as a tragic defect. But perhaps it can be better and more simply translated as a mistake or error?
Everyone makes mistakes once in a while. Everyone deviates from the plan. But what do we do when our mistakes have been made before? What if our mistakes are the plan? What if those mistakes can no longer be undone? What is our fate? Are we merely the actors in a script that has already been written? By our parents? By the gods? By our own bodies? How can we see through ourselves enough to stop before it is too late? How can we ever know ourselves well enough?’
written& directed by Robert Icke
scenography Hildegard Bechtler
translation Rob Klinkenberg
lighting design Natasha Chivers
video design Tal Yarden
sound design Tom Gibbons
costumes Wojciech Dziedzic
private producer Joost and Marcelle Kuiper, Harry and Marijke van den Bergh, Joachim Fleury