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Greek Tragedy at The Scoop with More London

| Festivals, Free events, Theatre | 13/08/2013


I’ve walked past The Scoop countless times and thought ‘well, that looks awesome. A scooped seating area right next to Tower Bridge and The Shard? Epic’. But then I’ve always trundled on past and forgotten about it. So when I stumbled upon the More London events site I could not resist paying a proper visit. Particularly when I saw they are having a summer of Greek Tragedy. You just can’t go wrong with some violence, questionable parent/child relationships, and some divine intervention (well, you can, hence the tragedy part).

Greek tragedy is best watched out doors, as it originally was. At The Scoop the actors get help from the surroundings – darkness falls as the play gets darker and the characters get more wretched. By the end of Antigone, at about 10pm, the atmosphere had grown really quite thick with hatred and misery so with the darkness thrown in on top, it got pretty emotive.

The evening is split into three parts: the first, the family section, is The Prince of Thebes, then after a short break it moves into the much more adult Oedipus and from there into Antigone. By the nature of the venue there were people milling about everywhere, wandering in to watch a bit and wandering back out again. Rather than being a distraction, I think this is a strength of the whole enterprise. The venue allows people to either have a taste or fully immerse themselves in the evening.

Part one is definitely a family orientated play. There were songs, games, audience participation and piles of cheese. It went down an absolute storm. This play introduces Oedipus and his background so it is a good introduction for any Greek tragedy newbies as well as being quite the riot for the younger family members. There is a very amusing rendition of LMFAO’s ‘Sexy and I Know It’ with the lyrics adapted to suit a more ancient Greek persuasion.

There is a significant shift in atmosphere after the break as it moves into the story of Oedipus. It gets darker both literally and in terms of the general tone of the play. There is more violence (only suggested violence though, this is not an over the top production with poorly choreographed sword fights), more arguing, more moral dilemmas and more insinuation of something not quite right going on between mother and son.

The play is very dialogue based and there is little action (until the tragic ending, of course) but I did not find myself clock-watching as can often happen with dialogue heavy plays. An old English teacher of mine was very fond of talking about impending doom, and my goodness was there a lot of that here. From the very beginning there is a sense that something very bad is going to happen. I think this is intensified by some of the actors being seated among the audience and standing up occasionally to act as a sort of chorus. The audience themselves then become part of the play; we become the Theban people cheering on Odeipus and then not cheering on Oedipus.

After the violent end of Oedipus we are flung straight into the tormented lives of his daughters, Antigone and Ismene, as they fight for the right to bury their brother (Creon gets all King-ish and decides that one of Oedipus’s sons who starts a war is not allowed to be buried but must be left to rot in the street). Antigone has one of the most tragic endings in Greek tragedy and that is really saying something. Again, the company succeed in creating that tragic atmosphere without it being over tragic and over acted. They really are quite skilled.

I think Samantha Lawson as Jocasta is what makes Antigone. She creeps around the stage with almost dancer-like movements, getting into Creon’s face and shouting her curses at everyone. Creon is played wonderfully. He is despicable, funny, paranoid and prone to tantrums. Finally, Ismene and Haemon were both suitably wimpy. Essentially, the acting in all three plays was pretty much top notch. It is just a small cast, each playing multiple characters but there is never any confusion, they always manage to make each character an individual.

This is Greek tragedy at its best and bloodiest performed by an excellent cast in awe inspiring surroundings. And it’s free so you can’t really go wrong.

‘The Thebans’ is playing every Wednesday to Sunday at The Scoop until September. For more information:

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