ARGUABLY THE most toured production in Irish theatre history, Pan Pan Theatre’s Oedipus Loves You is a daring take on the enduring myth of Oedipus.
It is finally coming home with a highly anticipated national tour including two performances at the Town Hall Theatre this Monday and Tuesday at 8pm.
Directed by Gavin Quinn and written by Simon Doyle, Oedipus Loves You has been rocking international audiences at performances in 22 cities across 10 countries, and after almost four years on the road, this striking production comes to Galway following a critically acclaimed season in New York in 2009 and the Sydney Festival in 2010.
The original myth of Oedipus epitomises Greek tragedy: abandoned by his parents as a child, Oedipus unknowingly kills his father Laius and equally unsuspectingly becomes the husband of his mother Jocasta, with whom he has children, including Antigone. When Oedipus discovers the truth from the prophet Tiresias, he blinds himself and Jocasta commits suicide.
With dark humour and a live punk music score, this production is inspired by the classic Oedipus plays of Sophocles and Seneca and their legacy - the writings of Sigmund Freud.
Pan Pan’s version takes the classic myth to a dysfunctional suburban household. In the setting of a backyard BBQ, the cast of five act out a complex family history. All in various states of depression, the family – self-pitying Oedipus; suicidal Jocasta with a noose around her neck; moody teen Antigone; and her cocaine-sniffing uncle Creon.
Occasionally they channel their rage by playing live punk music – a part of their therapy recommended by family psychotherapist and ex-glam rocker, Tiresias.
Oedipus Loves You is a performance looking at the historical curiosity of the Oedipus myth, its continuing relevance for today, and the reflection of our own fears in Oedipus’ situation. Rave reviews include The Irish Times describing it as “wickedly funny and wonderfully theatrical”, a glowing five-star review from the New York Times, and The Sydney Morning Herald’s declaration that it was “The most fun I’ve had in a theatre all festival.”
Discussing the show ahead of its Galway visit, director Gavin Quinn revealed that the music provided the initial starting point for the production.
“We made about 15 songs in response to the Oedipus story which we presented in a workshop setting at the 2004 Dublin Theatre Festival,” he says. “We formed a band and made all the music first. They’re like songs you’d make up in your bedroom basically.
“After we made the music then we wrote the script which took about a year and a half. Part of that original music still survives in the show, a little under half the show is live music. Some of that music has a way of communicating things emotionally that maybe you can’t do through speech.”
The music is played live by the cast.
“Dylan Tighe [Creon] is a very accomplished guitarist and singer but the others had to learn how to play bass and drums and to sing for the show,” Quinn reveals. “Some of the current cast have been with the show since the very beginning so with all the touring they’ve become quite proficient at playing the songs in the show – though they probably can’t play any other songs!”
Moving on to the narrative aspects of the production, Quinn outlines his approach to the material.
“The first thing I wanted to do was tell the Oedipus story very simply and clearly because people think they know it, so part of the show is just about doing that,” he says. “Then I was looking at the reasons why this story still exists after such a long period of time, it’s one of those original six or seven stories that seems to intertwine everything else that comes after it.
“I was interested in the whole idea of this myth being a way of describing human existence. We were also looking at the idea of therapy and the way Freud took the Oedipus myth and turned it into his own Oedipus complex, and we were looking at the whole subject of family therapy and the way that therapy has become part of our language, our culture, our landscape. So the play explores all those notions.”
While a combination of Greek tragedy and psychotherapy might sound like heavy going, Quinn points out that the play also contains a distinct streak of humour.
“I think humour is a great way to communicate with people and there are parts of the show that are genuinely funny,” he says. “Sometime there’s belly-laughs and sometimes it’s a dark humour. Humour is a great way to open a door.
“It can be blazingly funny at times and that’s a way to let people get comfortable with the show which lends you room to have the darker moments. The show is an hour long but there is a lot in it; it’s very compact and very immediate and very easy to take in.”
Tickets are available from the Town Hall on 091 - 569777.