Oedipus the King by Sophocles, translated by Ian Johnston

Contact Us

Download Oedipus the King from Chatterbox Audio Theater

Chatterbox Audio Theater, January - March 2013
In Robert Arnold's admirably clear production, one central theme emerged: the struggle for power between Oedipus (Tim Greer) and the gods that controlled his world.  Oedipus came across as someone obsessed with the idea of discovering his own identity - a good quality in itself, but perhaps he abused it slightly by treating those around him with disdain.  By doing so he incurred the wrath of the gods, who took revenge on him for daring to challenge their authority.  In this production, they were the ultimate rulers of the world; human beings had to subject themselves to their will.  In the climactic scene, when Oedipus plucked his eyes out, it seemed that this was not only an act of self-punishment (for having treated everyone around him with such disdain), but an act of revenge; he no longer wanted to see anyone, especially the gods.
The essential question here was one of knowledge: should human beings be allowed to 'know' all the secrets of the universe?  Creon (Kinon Keplinger) was in no doubt that Oedipus was exceeding the limits of his role; and hence deserved punishment at the gods' hands.  But we, as listeners, were left feeling far more ambivalent about Oedipus' actions.  If the gods were so vindictive as to make Oedipus marry his mother, should they be trusted?  Or were they as tyrannous in their way as Oedipus himself?
In other Greek drama revivals, the Chorus often provides a reliable guide as to how we should react to what we see or hear.  However in Arnold's production, the Chorus comprised only two actors (Bill Andrews, Jennifer Henry).  Sometimes their chanting was so ragged that it seemed as if there were just going through the motions of delivering their lines; consequently we felt that they were in some sense unreliable.  Perhaps they were nothing more than the gods' servants, mechanically repeating what they had been told to say.
Perhaps for the first time, I understood some of the ambiguities underlying Sophocles' text; he offers no conclusions to the issues he raises, such as free will, determination and power, but invites us to make our own judgment on the action.  To be honest, I ended up sympathizing with Oedipus; for all his cruelty and/or inability to deal with others, he at least made an effort towards self-determination in an otherwise deterministic universe.
All credit to Chatterbox Audio Theater for producing such an intelligent revival.  Their repertoire of classic and modern audio productions is always worth a listen.  Catch them if you can.