Image Credit: Ellis Parrinder
Kicking the bucket, biting the dust, pushing up daisies. Whatever way you put it there’s no escaping so let’s laugh in the face of death. Apologies for beginning so morbidly, but that’s the central theme of Oedipus Schmoedipus. This playful and irreverent production by Sydney based theatre makers Post explores the theme of death through the ‘classics’ of literature and theatre. Shakespeare, Chekhov, Euripides and Ibsen; they’re all there. The ‘great whites,’ as writer/performers Zoë Coombs Marr and Mish Grigor refer them, act as a springboard for this funny and frenetic excavation of death; the ways literary figures express it and the general fruitlessness of it all.
In a truly memorable opening sequence Coombs Marr and Grigor, dressed in white on a stark white stage, both shoot themselves in the head with a gun. One is presented rather poetically with a dramatic music cue and theatrical lighting. The other is a more realistic depiction involving a loud sound effect and a gruesome spray of blood. They promptly rise from the grave and continue to dispatch themselves over and over again in every conceivable violent manner for around six minutes. This is all done to the throbbing beats of a Rihanna and Eminem duet and with a whole bunch of fake blood. It’s all pretty meta and it’s a bloody good time.
This bold beginning sets up the tone of the piece and let’s the audience know what they’re in for. For the record, two audience members left shortly after – but not before they received a sneaky stare down from Grigor as they departed.
The two creators are soon joined on stage by a group of around twenty other random members of the public. We are informed that they have only had three hours of rehearsal before stepping in front of the audience. It’s a refreshing concept and the sequences involving these added performers are wonderfully natural and unassuming. Highlights include a traditionally costumed group moaning and wailing in grief as they convulse and shake wildly, a weirdly mesmerising parade of ghosts and the joyous finale where the chorus members each state that they’re going to die before breaking out into a wild dance routine that ends the show with a (literal) bang.
What’s so great about Oedipus Schmoedipus is that Coombs, Marr and Grigor unpack famous death quotes without a hint of pretension, their opening speech even explicitly comments on the inherent artifice of theatrical presentations, whilst still managing to wittily comment on notions of gender, sexuality and religion. These two artists are so charming and funny you just have to give in to the concept and go along for this giddy ride.
Oedipus Schmoedipus successfully straddles the line between traditional dramatic notions of death and sly postmodern commentary on these depictions; much like the two opposing suicides in the opening moments of the piece. It won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, but for audiences who stick around after the initial bloodletting the rewards are plentiful. Who knew death could be so funny?
4 Stars out of 5Oedipus Schmoedipus
Written by Zoë Coombs Marr, Mish Grigor and Natalie Rose
Arts House, North Melbourne Town Hall