“Oedipus is a powerful and accomplished man – and he knows it. Whilst he is arrogant and enjoys his drink, he still seeks to restore order to his city and cure the plague. But as the pressures of the destiny he sought to deny resurface, he steadily loses his grip on both his city and his life, consumed by his alcoholism, then despair.”
“Whilst he is arrogant and enjoys his drink, he still seeks to restore order to his city and cure the plague.”
What is the most challenging part about playing your character, Oedipus?
“Oedipus loves to give a good speech. That’s what will be most difficult – speaking a large amount without other characters to bounce off.”
Why did you decide to get involved with the Classics play this year?
“I’ve always been fascinated with classics, and I love performing. When I heard about the play I couldn’t not sign up! I’ve enjoyed playing similar roles in the past, like that of Macbeth, and I’ve even been in a previous production of Oedipus!”
How are you finding rehearsals, and what are you enjoying the most about the experience?
“Rehearsals are terrific fun, with a fantastic group of people. There’s always something to laugh about and I am glad I get to meet people I otherwise wouldn’t have crossed paths with.”
“Rehearsals are terrific fun, with a fantastic group of people.”
How are you finding your role as Producer, and what exactly does it entail?
“I’m really enjoying my role as producer! It is essentially all of the behind the scenes jobs, such as rehearsal schedules, managing the budget and making sure all the members of the production team are okay with the tasks given to them.”
What is the toughest part of your role?
“The toughest part was probably trying to organise a rehearsal schedule for a whole term. It was quite time-consuming since everyone has very different availability, but it works better than having rehearsals scheduled the day before!”
How’s organising props and costumes going so far?
“I have had a lot of volunteers to source props and costumes which I am extremely grateful for as it makes my role a lot easier! At the moment the two teams are keeping a look out for things that would fit in with the theme, and the costumes team have already found costumes which will be used in the trailer (so keep a look out for that!)”
“The costumes team have already found costumes which will be used in the trailer (so keep a look out for that!)”
How are rehearsals progressing?
“Rehearsals are going really well; the whole cast is so incredible and enthusiastic! They are a lot of fun, and everyone seems to get on with each other which is a bonus. So far, we have done a lot of individual scenes, and I’m so excited to see how it will look altogether.”
“The whole cast is so incredible and enthusiastic!”
“There are many different themes at work in Oedipus Rex, so it’s difficult to say exactly what the play is about. I’d say that our production, however, focuses on the theme of human arrogance: how Oedipus naively dismisses the power of the gods and places himself on a pedestal above all others. At the beginning he believes himself to be untouchable, at the end he realises that he does not hold absolute control, sight and power.”
“Our production, however, focuses on the theme of human arrogance”
What inspired you to set the play in 1928 with ‘a city-noir twist’?
“I felt that this setting and tone best accommodated the show’s themes. The 20s was a time of great Western success on a superficial level – the wealthy enjoyed ‘roaring’ glamour and industry, whilst the majority suffered poverty and inequality, paying the price for the success of others. Retrospectively, there’s also a sense of inevitability: the glamour and industry enjoyed by the wealthy was cut short by the Great Depression, an event that halted western arrogance and set the world on course for a terrible fate.
In our production I wanted the presentation of Thebes to capture these ideas; to show the success of some, and the dreadful suffering of others. To have a pervasive sense of inevitability undertoning Oedipus’ journey, demonstrating that fate could still overthrow and unwind him, despite his wealth and power.
The ‘city-noir’ twist puts a few more layers on top of the 20s setting. Film noir stories are heavy in themes of crime, conspiracy, paranoia, mystery and sexual immorality – the heroes tend to be flawed and morally questionable, like Oedipus. Additionally, the city is often a central aspect of noir storytelling, usually presented as a sin-infested maze of mystery and suffering. By translating these themes and ideas into our production, I hope to emphasise the flaws of the characters and the pain of the city. The purpose of this is to show how all things human are contaminated by ‘darkness,’ in contrast to the clear sight of the gods.”
What was the casting process like?
“The casting process was smooth and exciting; we saw a lot of talent and potential, none of which we wanted to waste. Many of the characters in our show don’t exist in the original script, or have been to some extent amended. We wanted to introduce an array of roles that could accommodate the talent we saw, allowing the cast to grow into and personalise their characters, and eventually give the audience an adaption of the play unlike anything they’ve seen before. Each character begins with a certain perception of Oedipus and changes their view as events unfold, ultimately demonstrating how the events of the story change the city of Thebes.
I’m not bias in saying we have an amazing cast, and each member of the cast is constructing their character beautifully.”
“Each member of the cast is constructing their character beautifully”
How are rehearsals going at the moment?
“Rehearsals are going brilliantly, I think we have a great energy going. The cast are really taking ownership of their characters and developing themselves beyond the script and direction. I’m very excited for the road ahead – there are some great scenes coming up in which the cast are going to really shine; every character has their ‘moment’ in the show and I’m thrilled to see those moments performed. I’m also excited for our upcoming musical rehearsals with Kirk, the tracks in this show are fantastic and our cast is equipped with some brilliant singers; it will be incredible to see our talented cast perform Kirk’s music, I really think it will add a new level of life and energy to the show.”
“I’m very excited for the road ahead – there are some great scenes coming up in which the cast are going to really shine”
Why do you think the Classics Play is such an important event within the Classics Society?
The Classics Society’s annual Ancient play is our greatest engagement opportunity. It offers Classics Society members the chance to engage not only with the wider university community, but with the local community and beyond! It also brings together people who share a common interest in Ancient theatre, regardless as to whether they have any previous experience with it. After all, the Classics Society isn’t only for Classics students; it’s for any Warwick students who would like to join us! Theatre composes a huge aspect of Warwick student life, yet our collaboration with the Classics Department means that our Ancient play is unique on campus. It allows anyone the prospect of getting involved in a production informed by professional academics, and then performed in a professional capacity. The society truly is delighted to open its arms to anyone who wants to take part in this exciting project. Ultimately, the Classics Play is a beautifully exemplifies one of our core values – the Classics Society is for anyone and everyone!
As a 3rd year, you were at Warwick for both Antigone and Medea, what did you think of the plays and what are you looking forward to about Frogs?
Sadly, I have yet to be in the audience for the previous two plays. I was either on stage or behind the scenes, so I am incredibly excited that I will be watching Frogs this year! I adore musical comedy, and the transition this year’s production has seen away from the past two years of tragedy is a welcome one. Not only am I thrilled at the prospect of getting to giggle away in the audience, but I am even more so thrilled that I will get to cheer my friends on as they perform! Perhaps, I’ll even try to sing along to some of the songs! (I apologise in advance to anyone who will be sitting within earshot of me).
Have you ever been involved in any of the Classics plays yourself and if so what did you enjoy about being part of them?
For 2017’s Antigone I was a chorus member, and for 2018’s Medea I was the Company Stage Manager. I am very grateful to have been able to experience being both a cast and crew member, and must say I enjoyed both equally! However, both brought different things to the table. Antigone was put on in my first year and so helped me to get to know the society very well (and very quickly)! By the time Medea rolled around, I was settled comfortably into student and society life and so relisted getting properly stuck in helping the Director and Producer behind the scenes. The comradery that is fostered when you work as part of a team like this (either as a cast or crew member) is second to none. So much so, I can honestly say that some of my fondest memories have been born from these past two productions. Especially, all those times we spent dancing to the production soundtracks backstage!
How do you think the play helps Warwick to engage with the local community and why do you think it’s important to make Classics relevant to younger audiences?
The study of Classics is something deeply beneficial, yet increasingly out of reach for school-age children. A Classical education equips students with sophisticated thinking skills, and a greater appreciation for the world around us and its history. The charity ‘Classics For All’ does a wonderful job in fighting a good cause in the promotion and facilitation of Classics’ teaching in schools across the country. It is our pleasure to join the fight, and collaborate with the Classics Department in providing school children with free tickets to see the Classics Play. We have two performance days, with one of those days being put on entirely free of charge to schools and supplemented by lectures from the Classics Department. Schools both local and further afield travel to Warwick to benefit from this opportunity, and we are delighted to host them each year. We too are delighted to invite the local community to come and see the play on our other performance day. We strive to make the play as accessible as possible, through measures such as the performance being in English rather than Ancient Greek or Latin. We also perform on campus, which has easy transportation links across Coventry and Warwickshire. Not only do we want to make Classics accessible and relevant to as many audiences as we can, but we also want to make it enjoyable! A night out at the theatre is something I would certainly never turn down, especially when I could bring my family and friends! For entertainment is a brilliant way to connect people, and I steadfastly believe that our public performance day will help us facilitate an even better relationship with our local community.
Hamish: I am in third year currently and had never been involved in the play, yet always heard it was good fun. When I found out this year we were performing a musical comedy I wanted to get involved as it’s my favourite type of theatre and I enjoy comedic acting, even if I’m not sure about my musical ability. I never expected to get a major part but auditioned for one because it gave me a chance to sing/rap You’re Welcome from Moana in the audition and never pass up a chance to do that. When I got the part I was genuinely terrified and convinced someone had made a mistake.
Wilkie: After being in Medea last year I knew I wanted to be in the Classics Play again, and I auditioned for Xanthias mostly because I wanted to play a more comedic character, especially since comic plays don’t get put on much at Warwick. Also I knew I wanted to sing Zero to Hero from Disney’s Hercules for my audition and I thought a more comedic character would fit that song.
Do you have a favourite scene? If so why?
Hamish: My personal favourite scene is when Dionysus, while dressed as Hercules, is confronted by two hotel owners Hercules cheated when he was last in Hades. One of the owners goes ballistic and almost attacks Dionysus and has to be restrained, allowing for some physical comedy. Not only is the scene very funny but the director’s instructions to me here were: “Be as pretentious and condescending as you possibly can.” And every time we perform this scene I take enormous pleasure in doing just that.
Wilkie: I do enjoy the scene where Aecus whips Dionysus and myself, it’s just such a fun and ridiculous scene and I can’t wait to do it in front of an audience. I also love my song and any scene where I get to interact with the audience.
What do you think the characterisation of Dionysus and Xanthias add to the comedy?
Hamish: Dionysus is portrayed in the play as stuck up, idiotic and childlike, to use nicer words.
This means that Dionysus becomes the butt of a number of jokes, but also almost everything he does has some comedic element to it. It is true he grows and develops as a person/god over the course of the play, but he never entirely shakes off these qualities and is thus always entertaining.
Wilkie: I play Xanthias as an incredibly metatheatrical character, always looking to the audience for support, and the fact that they are always in on his jokes makes his character and the play as a whole so much more relatable.
How would you describe your character in one sentence?
Hamish: Dionysus is a massive man-child with delusions of brilliance and little sense of his own idiocy… this the reason I was chosen to play the part.
Wilkie: The audience’s best friend.
How are you finding the rehearsals and what are you enjoying about being in the play?
Hamish: I am sincerely loving the rehearsals, working out how we will stage each scene and experimenting with different ideas is a very enjoyable process. The cast and crew are great fun to be around and create a genuinely entertaining environment to work in. Moreover, the rehearsals provide an extremely welcome relief from actual work and are a useful excuse for me to not write my dissertation – Unless it is a member of the classics faculty reading this, in which case it’s difficult to fit rehearsing in around all the work I’m doing for my course.
Wilkie: Rehersals are just lots of fun, everyone in the cast is such good friends and it’s so great to get to experience this bonkers play with them all. One thing I love is how open our director Kelsi has been to all of my ideas for Xanthias, which means I get to do a lot of fun stuff on stage.
A massive shout out to all our production team. Everybody’s been working so hard to ensure everything is ready for the big show. This week we’ve spoken to the producer Tom, and our two heads of costume, Jaz and Sarah.
What are your responsibilities as producer?
Tom: My responsibilities as producer are pretty numerous even though a lot of it can just feel like schedule manager. My real job is essentially to make Kelsi’s creative role as Director as easy as possible. In effect this means coordinating with all the
various strands of the show’s fantastic management team to make sure that we’re realizing her vision as effectively and efficiently as possible.
It’s an unpredictable job a lot of the time but there’s something thrilling about being told by Kelsi that there’s nothing left to do…for now. I love it.
And how’s sourcing the props and costumes going?
Tom: Sourcing the props is a tricky task, making sure that everything works well together and that the set feels complete. Holly and Anna definitely have a knack for getting the items that make sense on the stage as well as finding absolutely fantastic bargains. Sarah and Jasmine in Costumes have had to work very hard getting the entire cast all measured for their costumes but they’ve certainly put the hours in. On the creative side too, they’ll spot things when shopping for their own clothes etc. that would fit in with the show- it’s brilliant.
What are your inspirations for the costumes?
Jaz and Sarah: Kelsi gave us a lot of the ideas to start us off, after that we looked online. Obviously this year, being a comedy, the costumes are a lot of fun and are very out there, with a lot of different colors and patterns going on. The frog chorus has been particularly fun to source the costumes for, as we want everyone to have different styles of the same costume.