Review: Oedipus at Colonus #aftersophocles is vividly imaged, achingly grieving theatre, a fierce and defiantly immersive theatrical experience- Magnet Theatre in collaboration with the Baxter Theatre

Oedipus at Colonus: #aftersophocles

Where: Baxter Flipside
When: February 3 to 18, 2023, at 7.30pm with Saturday matinees at 2.30pm
Director: Mark Fleishman
Cast: Andrew Buckland, Jennie Reznek, Faniswa Yisa and the Magnet Theatre Youth Company
Booking: Webtickets Info:

Scroll down for production credits  

Oedipus at Colonus #aftersophocles is vividly imaged, achingly grieving theatre by Magnet Theatre in collaboration with the Baxter Theatre. Brilliant Magnet Youth Company and veteran theatre makers, Andrew Buckland, Jennie Reznek, Faniswa Yisa. Stirring playscript by Qondiswa James (#aftersophocles). This is urgent theatre of witness, of testimony by the young artists, sifting through the current landscape of now, in the fallout in the post-Covid interregnum, at crossroads of uncertainty, despair. They are defiant, clasping onto shards of hope, as we go forward. Forgiveness is another country.

This production is part of the Reimagining Tragedy in Africa and the Global South research project (ReTAGS), funded by the Andrew W. Melon Foundation, at the Centre for Theatre, Dance and Performance Studies at the University of Cape Town. It follows on from the acclaim of Antigone (not quite/quiet), at The Baxter, in 2019- yes, before the pandemic. In this production, there is a visceral looping and intersection with the young company with the myth of Oedipus, dicing and splicing through the classic text and its complex themes and images which riff and rip tragically against here and now.  

As noted in the programme, by the creative team, it is a play about time, aging, and dying, land, “about the limits of redemption and forgiveness.” There is so much to distil and process and I hope the reader forgives this short-ish review. We have had a bereavement in the family and I need to get this review out and encourage people to see this powerful piece of theatre which is an urgent call to engage with uncomfortable realities – land, dispossession; the sacred and profane- a lot.

The young people proclaim at the start of this play that they are occupiers of the land. They are not merely “homeless” and in positioning the playscript, Qondiswa James brilliantly shifts our gaze. We are not watching “homeless” people, a faceless bunch of “other”. They are occupiers – not occupied. Therein, I think, is the possibility for reclamation- for a recovery of sorts – maybe. James reflects in the excellent programme: “To say I am the writer of the script is not completely accurate. In some ways, sure. Someone needed to write what was on the floor, to type and input the relevant scenes from the original Sophocles, to peruse and lift the relevant text from the ‘stuff’. The ‘stuff’ was the “conversations, interviews, articles and personal opinions around home/homelessness, land/landlessness and the socio-economic disparities in South Africa, specifically” that fed into the piece. James adds: “The script is a reflection of all the voices that were present in the rehearsal room, our collective thoughts and feelings about our situation, 29 years after democracy”. We as the public are there to bear witness.

I have not even ventured into talking about the nuanced performance by the young cast; Andrew Buckland (Oedipus) slithering in the sacred geometry of land and delivering meta-insights into the fable into the classroom of the theatre (listen carefully), Jennie Rezneck (Creon) and Faniswa Yisa (Theseus) as figures rumbling in many directions, with loads of ‘stuff’. The space is set up as theatre in the round with two halves mirroring each other (Craig Leo is the designer), soundscape beating out (musical direction by Neo Muyanga), striking lighting design by Themba Stewart and Mark Fleishman (bright lights, for the most part, we are not plunged into the dark as the stage space is spotlighted and we must see everything).

Surtitles are cinema style so we get snippets of translation- peeling into the realm of the politics of translation- another story- another layer. As director, Fleishman, is a conduit, adroit conductor channelling the voices of the young company.  In my opinion the production is a tad too long. If it was staged for a festival, a snip may be something to consider.  Go and see Oedipus at Colonus #aftersophocles: A fierce and defiantly immersive theatrical experience. And yes, there are laughs and lots of moments of release. Do not miss.

Oedipus at Colonus #aftersophocles

Text: Qondiswa James (#aftersophocles)
Designer: Craig Leo
Musical director: Neo Muyanga
Choreography: Ina Wichterich
Lighting designers: Themba Stewart and Mark Fleishman
Projections: Daniel Manners

Sophocles text translated by Oliver Taplin with permission of Oxford University Press. 

✳Featured image: Jennie Reznek and Magnet Youth Company in Oedipus at Colonus #aftersophocles. Pic by Mark Wessels