We know how the Oedipus story ends: he murders his father and unwittingly marries his mother. But where did this shattering tragedy begin?
On the Misconception of Oedipus turns its eye to Jocasta and Laius, the parents who birthed a child that would bring about their downfall, and in so doing brought into the world more than a man — they created a myth.
Malthouse Director and co-creative Matthew Lutton has been drawn to Greek tragedies as a matter of artistic choice. They are not just incredible stories but is the stuff that fuels his imagination. "The Oedipus myth is an intriguing tangle and I wanted to trace back through all its threads to see how it begun. To see ‘if’ it had a beginning," he says.
Can we really say what Oedipus’ crime was? Attempting to recreate the true turn of events may actually be an impossible task, as memories lie, and unseen forces (call it science or blame it on the gods) will always shape our destiny. Lutton explores and probes this fascinating premise because for him it’s a piece about fate and our contemporary addiction to psychoanalyze everything and everyone. So how does he hope this translates to the audience: "That they will be intrigued as to how this myth can still reflect our society’s neuroses, how history seems to be controlled by those who write it, and what it means to live in a world where gods don’t intervene," he explains.
We know this story: a baby, Oedipus, is left to die only to survive, reach adulthood and carry out the prophecy of the sphinx that lead to his abandonment in the first place – yes, the great Greek tragedy of Oedipus, who is unable to escape his fate which sees him killing his father and marrying his mother, is familiar to us all. Freud ensured its longevity by underpinning his psychoanalytic theory with, amongst other things, his evolution of the Oedipus Complex. Lutton concurs and says: "We had to wrestle with both Ancient Greek and psychological archetypes, as you can’t discuss Oedipus without discussing Freud."
Lutton explains that this production focuses on the parents of Oedipus. It therefore examines the idea of genetics and the question of whether we are destined to become our parents. "I suspect the myth is relevant now, and will be for a long time to come, because it taps into enduring human obsessions – the fear of being replaced by the next generation, the fear of destroying your home, the fear of not being in control of who you are," he says.
The production also offers some philosophical examination for Luttomn who says: "It has tapped into a personal fear I have that perhaps my actions are causing destruction to the world around me and I am unaware of it."
This unprecedented take on one of history’s most enduring legends, is a theatrically fearless and unexpected excavation into the murky love that built a tragedy. "This is an imagined prequel to one of our most enduring myths," Lutton says. "We don’t know what actually happened before Sophocles’ or Seneca’s plays, so we have imagined our own version of events. It’s a show full of contradictions, because all the characters are competing to tell their version of event. Perhaps, however, there is no true version of events. Each time the characters approach a major crossroads in their narrative the theatrical language radically shifts. Therefore it is a very unpredictable theatrical experience."
On the Misconception of Oedipus plays at the Malthouse till August 26