Jeremy Kingston’s retelling of the Oedipus story takes the form of two separate but complementary plays. The first is Oedipus the King, his new translation of Sophocles’ Oedipus Tyrannos. The second is Oedipus at the Crossroads, a playful reimagining of the fateful, fatal meeting between Oedipus and his father. This is a revival of an earlier work and is the more intriguing of the pair, funny and questioning in tone, presenting a what-if scenario in which Oedipus discovers the identity of King Laius before killing him, forcing the two men to find a way of working together to appease the oracle.
The cast wear robes and togas for the second piece while Oedipus the King puts its characters into suits and contemporary clothes and has them drop the occasional expletive. The tone of the first play seems less sure of itself and Robert Gillespie’s production can feel creaky and constricted at times. Jack Klaff’s ripe, booming performance, his tendency to eclipse, also feels much better suited to the second play.
While pairing the pieces allows for greater reflection and exploration of the play’s themes, to tell the story and then unpick it, the double-bill format makes for a long and only intermittently rewarding evening.