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Stripping Oedipus to the essentials

Updated: 2013-09-06 14:35
By Han Bingbin ( China Daily)

Stripping Oedipus to the essentials

Deutsches Theater Berlin's new version of Odipus Stadt features the simplest of costumes. Provided to China Daily

A classic and legendary tale of ancient tragic heroes is being reinvented with a modern spirit.

In the time-honored Deutsches Theater Berlin's new version of Odipus Stadt, or Oedipus State, kings and queens walk around wearing cotton vests, gray longuettes and crowns made of paperboards.

The empty stage, with no sets or props, is a bare floor made into a steep slope on which men and women run in vain to reach the top. One of the men, a powerful king, is played by a woman.

Stripping Oedipus to the essentials

Everything, explains director Stephan Kimmig, has a meaning.

The simplicity of the costumes is an effort to place the audiences' attention solely on the characters' situations, with different colors suggesting their personalities.

Their exposed skin represents the vulnerability of the powerful, and their paper crowns a symbol of how tenuous their grip on power really is.

The slope is their fate that their efforts cannot override, men and women alike. In terms of people's lust for power, gender makes no difference.

Despite what seems experimental, there's nothing genuinely pioneering, says the theater's vice-director Sonja Anders. She says they are going back to the very start of dramatic traditions, using the simplest costumes and stage settings possible to highlight the themes.

"German audiences can understand various ways of expressions. They don't think it's avant-garde. Many of them now like to focus on the performance itself through very simple setting and costume," she says.

"Over the five or so decades of development, German theater has accumulated many such experiences. The form of a play is only decided by its content."

The legend of Oedipus and his royal family was frequently adapted by Aeschylus, Sophocles and Euripides, ancient Greece's three great writers of tragedy, to create such masterpieces as The Seven Against Thebes, Oedipus Tyrannus and The Phoenician Women.

Based on all that has been created, this rearranged trilogy of Oedipus legends respectively deals with the tragedy of Oedipus himself, the fate of his two sons, and his sister Antigone's conflict with the new King Kreon over the distinction between morality and law.

Stripping Oedipus to the essentials

Stripping Oedipus to the essentials

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