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OEDIPUS REX (article first published : 2004-08-21)

Currently running at the Courtyard Theatre is Christopher Stace’s translation of Sophocles’ classic tragedy, Oedipus Rex written about 2,400 years ago. The issues are as relevant today as they were in the times of Ancient Greece with power, corruption and political self-interest all-too often taking precedence over the wellbeing of the populace and its environment.

Deftly and surely directed by Allen M Auld, the production features first year students of the Durban Institute of Technology’s Drama Studies department. Considering their youth and comparative lack of experience in theatre, if this is the kind of performance coming from these first years, we can confidently expect some excellent work from DIT in the near future.

Taking the leading role of Oedipus is S’Dumo Mtshali (alternating with Siza Mthembu), an powerful figure who is confronted with the knowledge that he has unknowingly killed his father and married his own mother by whom he has had two children. This means that his daughters are also his sisters. It’s enough to drive anyone insane. S’Dumo Mtshali puts in a consistently compelling and passionate performance, his resonant voice and good diction standing him in good stead for his interpretation of this complex role. His final collapse is very moving.

Providing a strong catalyst for S’Dumo’s energy is Duven Naidoo (alternating with Shaun Pearson) as Creon, who triumphantly slides into the seat of power.

Most of the major roles are doubled which allows more students to gain experience in the production. Among the notable performers I saw tonight were Mpho Motsie as the Reporter, Siyasanga Tundzi as the Messenger, Smangele Khawula as Jocasta and Cebo Khumalo as Terisias. Simphiwe Jr Ngindi also impressed in his cameo role as the Shepard.

As the Priests, Cebile Mlaba and Khetiwe Hlatshwayo wear shining beaked masks and move silently among the Chorus, observing and listening … or spying?

Allen Auld has created a stark but visually striking set, with dramatic splashes of red presented in the props, floorcloth and fabric panels as well as in the costumes. He also incorporates the dramatic value of a little-used feature of the stage to great effect (go see the show!).

Oedipus Rex runs until August 28 in the Courtyard Theatre, Mansfield Road. Convenient performances times have been chosen from August 23 to 27 at 16h30 with the final two performances on August 28 at 16h30 and 19h00. The show runs without an interval and I would strongly recommend that you see it – most of these students have the capacity to be our professional performers of tomorrow.

Tickets R30 (R15 students) and booking is through Computicket 011 340 8000. – Caroline Smart




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