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The Trackers of Oxyrhynchus

  • Theatre, Drama
  • 3 out of 5 stars

Time Out says

3 out of 5 stars

A lumpen take on an intriguing Greek verse drama

After years in the wilderness, Greek drama is cool. Rupert Goold’s blindingly good 2015 season of Athenian classics at the Almeida led to a ripple of fresh excitement around the world’s oldest plays. Tony Harrison’s 1988 hit verse play is their grubby ancestor, a crude and dick-swinging take on a rarified dramatic tradition.

It’s a reimagining of one of the crudest forms of Greek drama, the satyr play. Two Oxford dons working on ancient tatters of papyrus unwittingly unleash a crew of young men who perform deafening clog dances with fake fur-coated hindquarters and wobbly cloth phalluses.

Their story centres on how centuries of civilisation has neglected the Classics. We’re invited to right history’s wrongs by reciting bits of Greek verse in crucial parts of the narrative, like that bit in ‘Peter Pan’ where you have to clap your hands if you believe in fairies.

Richard Glaves’s standout performance as chief satyr Silenus goes a long way to getting us on board with Harrison’s vision. But this is crude stuff, and not quite in the way the satyrs intend. Director Jimmy Walters’s production feels dated, lurching from mannered Classicism to cod-Yorkshire buffoonery. And there’s just not enough room to do the satyr’s dances justice.

This witty, inventive poem is something pretty special. In a cramped pub theatre, its dusty old words don’t always work their magic.

Written by
Alice Savile


Jan 3-15 £16, concs £14, Jan 17-28 £18, concs £16
Opening hours:
Jan 3-7, 11-14, 17-22, 24-28, 7.30pm, mats Jan 8, 14, 21, 22, 28, 3pm
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