A triumph for the classics

18 May 2021

Two classics, one from the 16th century and the other from the 4th century BCE, tested the minds and imaginations of both actors and audiences in this year’s duo of senior productions.

Shakespeare’s comedy As You Like It and Sophocles’ tragedy Oedipus Rex played on alternate nights in the Old Boys’ Theatre this week, (final night 15 May) College joining with Rangi Ruru Girls’ School to present the season.

The plays couldn’t have been more different, but their messages were timeless.

“All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players,” quoth Ollie Jones as Jacques in As You Like It, then delivering some of Shakespeare’s best ever known lines with great panache.

Directors Nikki Bleyendaal and Peter Rutherford had a modern take on this classic, setting it in an imaginary world where Duke Frederick (Jacob Clements) oversaw a less than legal gambling empire barely yards from the bush and farmland of South Canterbury. The leads, Rosalind (Lucy Aitken) and Orlando (Bruno Vaughan) took the cast on a merry romp through the Forest of Arden, including cross dressing, mistaken identity and sibling rivalry. Affirming many decisions being taken was the “chorus,” in this version a flock of sheep who “baa-ed” their assent, or surprise, or disapproval, much to the audience’s delight.

The chorus for Oedipus Rex performed along traditional lines while dressed in modern clothes, and it delivered clear explanations of the action, the might of the gods, and the forces of fate.

A grim tale, this tragedy, directed by Robyn Peers saw Nathan Orchard in the title role, Mimi Boister as Jocasta, Queen of Thebes and Henry Briscoe as Creon, her brother.

They played on a set jointly designed by the play’s Technical Director Grant Hadley, College’s new Director of Drama Hannah Clarkson and Robyn Peers, comprising a simple square bordered by metal curtain and cleverly lit to symbolically depict ancient Thebes.

Hannah Clarkson also choreographed the movement which gave physical vitality to the chorus role. The story of Oedipus is complex, but can be loosely summarized as the King who killed his father, and married his mother! Crowned King of Thebes by the townspeople after he has rid it of the Sphinx, the people marry him to Jocasta, their recently widowed Queen. Much later when the city is suffering from plague and famine, Oedipus sends to the Oracle at Delphi for answers.

The result confounds him and devastates all their lives. Oedipus learns that even unwittingly you cannot offend the gods and hope to survive unscathed.

Robyn Peers says the play was very different from anything the seniors might have been expecting as their finale production.

“I am very proud of them and what they have achieved.”