Oedipus Electronica sizzles with dramatic tension and electricity as a playwright and her husband grapple with the loss of a child that has cast an immense shadow over their thirty year marriage. The play is a tale of love and loss, heartache and fear, set in the underworld of inner-city London. It’s a psychological thriller. Complete with live band, Oedipus Electronica is a modern take on the ancient Greek myth.
Mella Faye gives a mesmerising performance as Jocasta. She also wrote and directs the play. Direction is excellent. She is creative, highly strung, vulnerable with her husband Laius but takes control and commands respect when presented with Oedipus (Ryan David Harston). The creative process of writing is audibly depicted to great effect, a swirling of ideas and voices that keep the audience on edge and Jocasta chained to her laptop.
Story and reality blur in the second half when Jocasta’s play takes shape, a form of meta fiction. Greek tragedy unfolds in which a young man reaches for a better life that is almost within his grasp. Echoes of Jean Paul Sartre’s ‘No Way Out’ threaten to engulf Jocasta. Laius immerses himself in Jocasta’s grief without losing his sense of self. Oedipus makes a voyage of self-discovery towards inner sight.
Oedipus represents an army of lost children in inner cities, powerless and alone. There is no homecoming, and moments of joy are eclipsed by shards of pain and poor decision-making in the heat of the moment. Like Jocasta he is complex, inhabiting two worlds.
Often frantic in pace, Oedipus injects a lot of frustration and blind rage, he is troubled, lost and trapped, yet on the brink of a new beginning. Laius brings humanity, compassion and stability to the creatives. You feel safer when he is around. Kwame Bentil is the loving father and husband, suppressing his own anguish to support his wife.
Every inch of the set is used and it adapts with the play. It’s sparse and the live band are on stage throughout, heightening emotion with their highly charged score. Tom Penn plays the keyboard and double bass and Don Bird is on drums. Lighting is no mean feat and adds to the atmosphere, changing the mood on the set every five minutes or so. Clare O’Donoghue and Tanya Stephenson designed the lighting and Samuel Bell makes it all happen as the programmer.
It’s the second Greek tragedy to be reworked by Pecho Mama: the first was Medea Electronica. A visceral performance which is hard to watch, the play puts you in touch with primal instincts and is true to the Greek myth, yet placed in a modern context to make it accessible to a 21st century audience.
We recommend this original production – it is not for the faint-hearted, certificate 15. Loss, anguish, abandonment, carnal desire and powerlessness run like a current and play games with reality. It’s about grief and letting go, as well as the cathartic power of writing to exorcise your soul of inner demons. The very survival of Jocasta’s psyche is at risk. The play is dedicated to every parent who has lost a child.
The Old Market, Wednesday 15th November 2023
Oedipus Electronica runs until Sat 18th Nov, tickets available here
Photos by Cameron Carver