Q Theatre, Rangatira, Auckland

17/03/2016 - 20/03/2016

Auckland Arts Festival 2016

Production Details

In a nutshell:  
Boundary-breaking theatre that won’t let you go / Four pianos, and pianists / A first for our city

Performed in Korean with English surtitles

“Hard for anything in the festival… to top this” – The Business Times, Singapore

The Chorus; Oedipus is a contemporary Korean theatre work that uses a riveting mix of music, movement and drama to re-imagine Sophocles’ well-known Greek tragedy as a music theatre work. 

In this incredible adaptation, the chorus is the star. Sinewy and athletic they move in unison, channelling a foreboding wind, a chariot, a flock of birds and the tormented Oedipus himself. The play is underscored by pianists performing live on four pianos and high-energy, in-the-moment choreography and harmonic vocals. 

Rich in metaphor and imagery, and layered with spectacularly nuanced and beautiful performances, The Chorus; Oedipus is intimate in scale and epic in scope. A huge box-office hit at 2014’s Singapore International Arts Festival, The Chorus; Oedipus had audiences clamoring to get tickets. 

Witness how this tale as old as time becomes as fresh, contemporary, stylish and original as it was when it first hit the amphitheatre 2,500 years ago in Ancient Greece. 

Q Rangatira
Thu 17 & Fri 18 March 2016, 7:30pm
Sat 19 March 2016, 3:00pm & 7:30pm  
Sun 20 March 2016, 5:00pm
Price $45 – $65

Post-show talk: Friday 18 March

Theatre ,

1 hr 35 mins, no interval

A beautiful, physical, musical paean to the horror of self-knowledge

Review by Janet McAllister 19th Mar 2016

Sixteen figures in flowing cream reclaim the King of Thebes from Freud in this melodic contemporary opera. This is a straight retelling of the original Oedipus tragedy exquisitely presented with swirling choreography, spare imagery and wonderful music.

Playwright Areum Han restores melodramatic plot points to the one-sentence, two-act nutshell we all know. It’s an impossible whodunit: we already know who killed his father and married his mother; here, we find out how it happens and how the truth outs. Along the way there’s blindness, baby abandonment, frenzied oracles and a rude charioteer. Those ancient Greeks, eh! [More]


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Group precision creates collective perspective

Review by Vanessa Byrnes 18th Mar 2016

Four women on pianos frame this rather extraordinary South Korean modern reworking of Sophocles’ Oedipus Rex on at Q Theatre. A beautiful, fraught adaptation of the classic tale, it offers a tightly worked retelling of this story, sung and spoken by a chorus of up to 14, mainly men.

Precision is the overriding and guiding force here – a chorus working in unison is a terrific sight – and to hear them sing together with such strictness is truly stunning. A beautiful set that is lit and designed by Jae-Hyung Seo sets the scene; wooden circles hold the tale. A rather divine wooden bath sits to the side of the round platform. This design is minimal and fine in detail. Cream costumes, no props, just the voice and body telling the tale. This House of Laius really is something quite regal.

Director Seo Jae-Hyung and composer Choe Uzong have created a remarkably choreographed piece of sung theatre about a man whose quest to root out the cause of Thebes’ plague leads him to question who he really is. “I want to know who I am” is the driving force for Oedipus, but as the tale cautions, self-awareness and truth bring pain that must be met head-on.  

So it is only fitting to mention the wonderful work of Eun-Jung Jang, whose choreography underpins a truly remarkable working of the location. Shapes change and develop with only chairs and bodies in space. This unison is striking to behold as the chorus doesn’t miss a beat. “Sinewy and athletic they move in unison, channeling a foreboding wind, a chariot, a flock of birds and the tormented Oedipus himself,” as the media release puts it. They deftly evoke images of a baby crying, the wind howling, birds screeching. I can only imagine the hours of discipline it took to create this level of structured creative form. 

Yoon Ho Nam strikingly plays Oedipus, so named – it means ‘swollen foot’ – after the rope that was tied to his ankle as a baby left his foot engorged. It seems his destiny is to find out his true lineage, then challenge fate to take his own destiny forward. This involves the revelation that his mother is actually his wife now.

Kang Hee Yim plays Jocasta, the woman whose fate as Oedipus’ mother/ wife is sometimes skated over in the telling of this tale; however, Yim’s handling of Jocasta’s death scene is poetic and moving. How interesting that we start to watch the how and not the what of this story. The Greeks must have done the same.

The overriding strength of this extraordinary work is its commitment to high-octane choreography and group precision, underpinned by fine vocal work. Of course, that high-octane force also earns the credit for subtlety and when moments of relief or human comedy come, they are welcome.

I am struck by the individual beauty of these characters in the curtain call, though, and wanted more of that in the work. Something in this telling of the tale asks for individuality amid the fine work of the chorus. Maybe that’s my post-Stanislavskian self wanting more individual revelation, but then I love the group precision that gives a collective perspective on the Oedipus story.

Either way, this fine work that is a treat: a fabulous choice of work by Auckland Arts Festival. Don’t miss it.


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