Oedipus @ Koö-nú! is a no-apology play

Oedipus @ Koö-nú! is the piece Standard Bank Young Artist For Theatre 2014 Greg Homann had funded as part of winning that prize.

Initially, the set – a large circular carpet dotted with standalone toilets like some Democratic Alliance councillor’s nightmare – seems an odd way to spend that cash, especially given that the surrounds are bleak and blank, without even any curtains to block off the wings; just bare walls.

But Homann’s dismantling of Sophocles’ Oedipus At Colonus is cleverly designed, so much so that catching all the references at a first sitting is unlikely. Some of the writer’s tricks are obvious (and helpfully telegraphed by the cast), including having the actors double as metaphors (“Hi: we are a dramatic mechanism designed to represent …”). Others are more subtly included in the story, but no less recognisable – sadly, for audiences spotting aspects of their own lives being unpacked.

Bureaucracy is shown to be a villain in itself – who needs an actual rogue when an allegorical one will do? The tragedy of a family dispersed and broken is explored (with obvious references to the spats between various Mandelas in the wake of their patriarch’s death and burial at – ooh! – Qunu), with strong allusions to the Oedipal myths (father-killing; mother-shagging), which makes matters both amusing and brain-bruisingly complex.


There is a huge load of text for the cast to work through, with long monologues lightened by lines such as “Now, I must leave you. I have a costume change.”

Without these moments of levity, proceedings would likely get too heavy for most, but funny or serious, David Dennis puts in a powerhouse performance as Oedipus, made all the more impressive by his character being blind and him needing to add that physical aspect to his role.

Comedienne Tumi Morake shows a keen awareness of the impact of fine detail on her delivery. And Masasa Mbangeni, as Antigone, the daughter of Oedipus, is a forceful presence.

This is a challenging piece that takes a while to unpack once you have left the theatre.


Show: Oedipus @ Koö-nú!
Cast: David Dennis, Tumi Morake, Masasa Mbangeni
Director: Greg Homann
Classification: PG
Venue: Rhodes Theatre, Grahamstown

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