Sophocles' Oedipus at Colonus

Directed by Mimis Kouyoumtzis
Presented by the Art Theatre at the
Epidavros Festival 2003
Performed 4-5 July, 2003

The play Oedipus at Colonus is associated in Greek theatre with the actor and director Alexis Minotis who directed it with himself in the title role in 1958 and reworked the production many times since (National Theatre: 1959, 1962, 1966, 1975, 1976, 1978, 1982, 1989, Empiriko Theatro: 1986) with a different cast each time but always with himself as Oedipus. No other Greek theatre company or practitioner ever produced the play for the Epidavros Festival before Minotis' death. Only in 1988, after his death, did the Theatriki Diadromi company produce the play. The play was also presented for the festival's audience in 1998 by Peter Hall and even then it was not on its own, but in a joint production with Oedipus Rex, produced by the National Theatre of Great Britain.

The Art Theatre's production of Sophocles' Oedipus at Colonus, which opened the Epidavria (the Epidavros Festival), was a re-staging of last year's production which was canceled due to the rain. The production was intended to be the farewell appearance of Giorgos Lazanis as an actor, and it was announced that he would perform the title role. Sadly, however, G. Lazanis was unable to perform due to health problems. This year's performance was dedicated to the memory of its director, Mimis Kouyioumtzis, who passed away this year.

The key element of the production was simplicity. This simplicity was evident in all aspects of the production, from the solitary, natural olive tree in the center of the orchestra which formed the setting by D. Fotopoulos and the clear, translation, true to the original, by D. Maronitis, to the sound of the single flute that was performed live in the orchestra by the composer Ph. Tsalahouris. The director, Mimis Kouyioumtzis, aimed to serve the text without trying to "explain" it, change it, or modernize it in any way.

Possibly the most notable moment was Oedipus' exit and ascension to the sky; Y. Voglis (Oedipus) disappeared towards the trees behind the theatre, in a tunnel of light which was coming from the back of the orchestra.

The actors were both permanent members of the Art Theatre as well as returning members who had gathered together in this production to honour and support G. Lazanis in his wish to retire as an actor with this role. Thus, the actors' performances were very homogeneous as they all came from the same theatrical background. However it was also evident how the tradition of the Art Theatre has evolved in the work of each individual practitioner.

Selection of passages from reviews:

Sofia Spyratou choreographed the chorus excellently. It was probably the most modest, within the limits of the tragic ethos and style of this summer. In addition, this chorus proved that a School like that of the Art Theatre is necessary for the creation of an aesthetic result.
Kostas Yeorgousopoulos, Ta Nea 30 September 2002

Mimis Kouyioumtzis gave us a production which is characterized by complete clarity, simplicity and ethos. The first concern in this production was the clarity of speech and modesty. In any case, Kouyioumtzis never had the tendency to be at all ‘modernist’. To this equally contributed Dionisis Fotopoulos’ proposition for a scenic space which was an extension of the natural background of Epidavros (an attic olive tree in the center), the costumes of Katerina Sotiriou, the low-tone music of Philipos Tshalahouris, as well as the warm lighting of Sakis Birbilis.
Olga Moschoritou, Emerisia 12 July 2003

For the entire duration of this year's production, and while I was listening to a speech in today's modern Greek, it seemed ancient Greek to me! This is, I think, a real achievement. Something that is very rarely achieved in translations. This play is indeed fatal. It was the last play that Alexis Minotis performed, and his retreat from the stage as Oedipus at the end. [...] And now it is the last play that Mimis Kouyioumtzis directed before his sudden departure, a few months ago. And probably it was his best work as a director in the theatre."
Eleftherotypia 7 July 2003

Reviewed by Smaragda Hatzidaki
Smaragda Hatzidaki graduated in Theatre and Performance Studies from the University of Warwick in 2003. She currently lives in Athens.

Oedipus at Colonus performed at the Epidavros Festival, 2003

Related Web-sites - The web page of the daily newspaper Ta Nea with articles, interviews, reviews (in modern Greek) - The web page of the daily newspaper Elephtherotypia, with articles, interviews, reviews (in modern Greek)