National Theatre. Adapted by Ted Hughes from a translation by David Anthony Turner. Costumes designed by Jean Monod
Cast & Crew
Hello, I remember going to this production of Seneca’s Oedipus in 1968, when I was sixteen. I went with my late father, travelling up to London from Surrey, where my father was working as a consultant psychiatrist. We was also the director of one of the first group psychoanalytic centres in Paddington, while training as a psychoanalyst. I had not been to the theatre many times and we usually went to the musicals my mother loved. My father came with us occasionally. We did go every Christmas to see Peter Pan at the Scala Theatre and I remember him liking it very much, as I did.
It strikes me now as rather extraordinary that father & eldest daughter should go to see Oedipus together! At 16 I was much less ‘knowing’ than today’s sixteen-year-olds. As I sat down in my seat in the circle, I noticed there was a man in black strapped to the column directly behind me, and then noticed there were many people strapped to columns all around the theatre. I read in the programme that they were the Chorus.
I turned to my father, exclaiming, ‘Look Dad!’ He looked disapproving and said nothing. This was clearly not what he was expecting. He was conservative in his literary tastes and seemed rather shocked.
I remember the starkness of the spare stage and the black the cast were wearing, especially the roll neck John Gielgud wore. (I was mesmerised by his acting) I was wearing sixties gear – a black roll neck jumper, a grey skirt and black boots, so far as I remember, and by the age of 19 I declared myself to be an ‘Existentialist’! I was entranced by the production. I had not read the play, any versions, and my father had not explained in advance what it was about. Much of it went over my head, but I remember some of the lines of Ted Hughes’s translation – ‘it is one huge plague pit/the new heaps of dead spewed up’
I did go on to become a poet, so I must have been receptive to Hughes’s words.
I also remember the golden phallus, veiled, wheeled onto the stage and then unveiled, and the jazz band entering from the back of the theatre in a very carnivalesque celebration. I don’t remember that they were playing ‘Yes, We Have No Bananas’!
I was absolutely thrilled by the production, as it was like nothing I had seen on tv or in a film and certainly not at the theatre!
Sadly, though, my father looked very pale and shocked, and barely responded at all to my excitement. I remember on the car journey, on our way back, I did chatter excitedly but that my father seemed immeasurably sad, which was anyway often his mood. He hated Surrey and loved London, where he had grown up, and my late brother was seriously ill at home.
This is first time I have seen your website and am so glad to remember this production. I shall send off for Hughes’s translation to jog my memory further.
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