THE PERVASIVE element of Greek tragedy running through Edinburgh’s main festival programme gets a striking send-off with this revival of Mark-Anthony Turnage’s 1988 chamber opera, based on Stephen Berkoff’s scalding adaptation of Sophocles’s Oedipus Rex.
When Berkoff burst on the theatre scene in 1980, he saw this country as “a decaying island, preyed upon by the wandering hordes who saw no future for themselves in a society which had few ideals or messages to offer them,” and the action of his Greek is, appropriately enough, transferred from ancient Thebes to Margaret Thatcher’s Britain.
The 37 years since Berkoff’s doleful statement have seen little change. The country’s plague, as the projected images in Joe Hill-Gibbons’s production bear out, is still with us
In Berkoff’s version Oedipus is Eddy, a young Tufnell Park tearaway. Not having been told that he had been found and adopted as a baby, he leaves home to avoid the prediction of a fairground fortune teller that he will kill his dad and marry his mum.
The tragedy works its course when he murders a cafe owner in a brawl and marries his widow. Unbeknownst to Eddy, they are his real parents.
Turnage’s mordant percussive music moves from screaming punk anger to a painful lyricism, complementing Berkoff’s scatologically angry text while at the same time enhancing the play’s caustic humour.
Both as singers and actors, the production boasts an impressive four-strong cast.
Alex Otterburn’s Eddy, Susan Bullock and Andrew Shore as his Mum and Dad, and Alison Cook as his sister/wife, supported by an orchestra of Scottish Opera soloists conducted by Stuart Stratford, give voice and a fresh, ultimately optimistic, take on a classic tragedy which resonates with our own plague-ridden world.