As part of the blog we’ll be running a series where we sit down and talk with some of our most exciting local authors, and posting their insightful answers to our ill-conceived questions here for you to read.
Daniel Evan’s gloriously nuts play Oedipus Doesn’t Live Here Anymore just finished its run at QTC, and fortunately we managed to catch up with him to ask some questions about the production.
- Even as the plot unfolds, it’s like watching someone interrogate the original text. Why do you think the core of Oedipus remains so appealing to audiences?
I think that it’s because the story still has the capacity to gross us out. Millennia after it was originally staged, there’s something still just a little taboo about a son winding up in his mother’s bed … and conceiving four kids. He’s like the Western World’s original motherf**ker pin-up but he is also the original tragedy pin-up; we still find him and his family fascinating, that’s the power of myth.
- Though the actors juggle several parts, we never see Oedipus or Jocasta onstage. What was your reasoning behind keeping them on the sidelines?
Good pick-up! That’s totally deliberate. I wanted to remove the key players entirely. Make them ghosts. The play unfolds as this kind of retrospective horror story and it made sense to me that the two figureheads (the central figures of The Theban Trilogy) were missing. Logistically because their presence would’ve been too big to summon and they would’ve overshadowed the story. But thematically because I like what their absence represents. The work is called Oedipus Doesn’t Live Here Anymore but – in the world of the play – neither does a hero, or sense of empathy, or feeling of catharsis; none of the things ‘Oedipus” name is synonymous with. I was interested in exploring how nonplussed or apathetic we are now in the face of tragedy.
- A lot of people going into see the play will probably be shocked by how radical a reinterpretation it is. Given that a lot of theatre companies gear towards producing classic work, how did you approach dismantling the original play and rebuilding it as your own?
Theatre has to speak to the here and the now. There’s so much it’s competing with – bad musicals, easy torrent downloads, killer movies – it can’t afford to be a piece of museum fare. The classics are ripe for reinterpretation because their themes still manage to resonate with us, even today. I’d like to think that while the work isn’t a play-by-play of Sophocles’ original story, it’s honourable to the thematics beneath it. I think the process of adaptation is really a process of fidelity – and while this may be a little radical, it’s still very much faithful to the original. Also, does anyone really want tragedy in togas anymore? But, really?
- No social class is safe from satire: bogans, yuppies, etc. What initially prompted you to use Oedipus as a framing device for critiquing Australian culture?
Those characters pop up in all my work. I’m a kid of the suburbs (from the Deep South of Brisbane) and that place has always felt mythic to me. Originally, I wanted to combine two diametrically opposed landscapes – that of the Ancient Greeks and the mundanity of Brisbane suburbia. When you put those spaces in conversation something really interesting happens; there’s this can’t-look-away collision between the epic and the domestic. When you begin picking through the wreckage you find something that is incredibly funny but also, I hope, heartbreaking. I see it less as a critique and more of a homage perhaps, to how far we’ve come but how little we’ve travelled.