Theatre comes in so many forms, from the light and amusing, through gently moving and eventually to the disturbing and thought provoking, with no doubt, many stops along the way. As a lover of theatre I admit to having very catholic tastes, and can enjoy being gently entertained as well as being disturbed.
Pecho Mama’s reworking of the Greek myth of Jocasta, Laius and Oedipus certainly disturbed. Not that that is a bad thing, far from it, being made to think and think hard is all part of the experience, to be uncomfortable is no doubt their intention, to recognise in what they are doing something of ourselves is all part of their theatrical purpose.
The structure of the work is a complex working of parallel threads, of realities and dreams, of myths and modern life. Mella Faye, writer and director, also plays Jocasta, a troubled writer who has lost her creative way. It’s a portrayal of frustration that any true creative will recognise. And at the same time she is dealing with a loss that is gradually revealed. Her performance is darkly compelling, her distress real and her attempts to rationalise her situation all too familiar.
Husband Laius played by Kwame Bentil tries to make her see reason and recognise her realities, her strengths and her loss. He knows more than he reveals but out of misguided kindness perhaps, keeps the truth from her.
Ryan David Harston is the eponymous Oedipus, a deeply troubled young man who haas fallen into an underworld of drugs and crime which runs in parallel with his successful life as a writer. Harston is utterly compelling, both verbally and physically, commanding the space with an extraordinary energy throughout.
The whole work is driven by amazing music, an aural landscape of drums, keyboards and double bass. Don Bird’s percussive skills are stunning and Tom Penn shifts from keys to bass with seamless ease to create and atmosphere between them of darkness and tension in a score created by Don Bird, Mella Faye and lex Stanford.
The whole is beautifully lit by Clare O’Donoghue and Tanya Stephenson, and the set, again the work of Faye, a scaffold structure works well.
There are moments of terror, of violence and of anger, none of which seem gratuitous and these are balanced by moments of tenderness.
This is a darkly moving experience that will provoke thought and debate. At times I sensed that in the voices, when not working with, against and above the musical score, where a little over amplified, but on the whole the piece works well.
At the end the cast take a curtain call and make a plea for support of live performance and for independent venues, a plea that we all need to heed if we are to continue to enjoy innovative theatre of this kind.
The Old Market