Jocasta by Ned Dickens

Dates and Venue 19 March – 5 April 2009 | Studio 58,

Director Craig Hall Set Design Yvan Morissette Costume Design Mara Gottler Lighting Jergus Oprsal & Sound design Michael Rinaldi Stage Manager Kevin Bennett

Reviewer Jane Penistan

Jocasta is one of seven plays by Ned Dickens, comprising The City of Wine cycle. The whole cycle will be performed by 7 companies from 7 different Theatre schools from across Canada. Nightswimming has commissioned these plays and will present them at Theatre Passe Muraille as The City of Wine Festival.

Studio 58 is delighted to be one of the participating schools and will present Jocasta on May 5 – 9, 2009.

Other plays are: Harmonia, Simon Fraser University, Contemporary Arts Pentheus, School of Performing Arts at Humber College Laius The Theatre School at George Brown College, Oedipus Students of Concordia University, Creon Students of Sir Wilfred Grenfell College, Seven by the students of York University.

Jocasta is a tale of the parents of Oedipus. Jocasta is the daughter of Menaeceus of Thebes. Laius, a returning exile from Corinth, and now king of Thebes comes to claim the young Jocasta as his bride. He arrives in the City of Wine, swaggering and drinking and claims his bride. Jocasta, now queen, bears him a son, but fearing the prophesy of the oracle of Delphi that his son will kill him, Laius orders a shepherd to take the baby out to the far hills and destroy him.

Laius becomes a tyrant antagonizing the citizens of Thebes and keeping his wife, father- and brother-in-law in penury and terror.

News comes that Laius has been murdered while away from the Thebes. At this time a young soldier of Corinth, Oedipus, arrives in Thebes and charms the citizens and royal family alike. Oedipus becomes king and marries Jocasta and Thebes is itself again with wine flowing like water and the citizens rejoicing in the promise of a fair future.

The script is beautifully crafted in poetic and rhythmic language which all the cast speaks excellently. The chorus of citizens are all individual characters with each his/her own personality and distinctive dress. They act well together in the choral speech, dancing, merrymaking, as well as in the discontent during the wine restricted dictatorship of Laius, and in their loyalty to their queen and her royal family. Of those “Named who live once and are remembered” there is also excellent diction, rhythmic verse and distinctive acting. The high standard of all the cast make it difficult criticize individuals without becoming monotonous.

Jocasta (Genevieve Fleming) looked beautiful, moved gracefully and sustained her long speeches musically and believably. This was a moving and well interpreted performance. In contrast, Laius (the well voiced Sean Oliver) was overbearing and boisterous, bullying and arrogant, his unseemly behaviour masking his private fear. Unforgettable was the aged blind Teresias of Gui Fontanezzi. His mysticism was believable and enthralling.

The direction of Craig Hall was unerring. The management and movement of the chorus and the ingenious use of the stage were outstanding. The production had the maturity and discipline which is expected of a Greek play with none of the over stylized speech movement and acting which is also expected. This was a Greek play for the 21st century, enfolding all that is good and beautiful in Greek drama in the context of the present day. The beauty of the poetic writing was never lost, and nor was the enjoyment of this new concept of what might have been in an ancient legend.

© 2009 Jane Penistan