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A theatrical bolt of lightning can strike twice, especially if the bolt is wielded by a trio of goblins.
Goblin: Macbeth, created and performed by Rebecca Northan, Bruce Horak and Ellis Lalonde for Calgary’s Shakespeare Company in 2022, was such a hit that it played to sold-out theaters at Vancouver’s Bard on the Beach and the Stratford Festival again last year.
Those goblins will be back at High Performance Rodeo until next Saturday, this time gleefully plundering Sophocles’ Oedipus the King.
The raunchy fun begins as audiences line up to enter the Arts Commons Grand Secret Theatre. Wug, Kragva, and Moog enter carrying a giant phallus which they demand to be passed along the line to the theater. As the audience sits, the goblins recruit a dozen men to form the Greek chorus on stage, a necessary staple in any Greek drama. They can wear red robes and masks and are given reactions to act out whenever they hear certain words. This recruitment and training is hilarious and effectively serves its purpose of getting the audience comfortable and anticipating more slapstick fun.
The bawdy irreverence continues as the trio explain some principles of ancient Greek theatre, arguing over whether the essential orgy is supposed to occur before or after the performance. They also promise that no audience members will be sacrificed during the performance, but they cannot guarantee what may happen after the show.
It is decided that Horak will play Oedipus, Lalonde a messenger from Corinth and Northan all the other characters. The stage lighting changes and then the play begins and the magic happens. The elves are using the late Calgary playwright John Murrell’s 1988 stage version of Sophocles’ play, which he wrote for the Stratford Festival. It’s a beautiful, moving text and Horak and Northan treat it with the reverence it deserves and yet are still able to insert some great improvised stage matters.
The audience gets the full impact of this story of a man who was unknowingly forced to murder his father and marry his mother just so that the Oracle of Delphi’s prophecy would be fulfilled. This is what King Lear means when he says, “As flies to wild children, so are we to the gods / They kill us for sport.”
Not everyone can juggle drama and craziness so skillfully and make it look so effortless and spontaneous.
Horak takes Oedipus from defiant to devastated to finally defeated. It’s a powerful performance that he can break off to banter with Northan and then resume without losing his impact.
Lalonde provides all on-stage music and sound effects cues. It’s supposed to be background, but in one inspired moment, it gives more than it needs, prompting Horak and Northan to sit back and, like the audience, enjoy his antics and his skill as a musician.
Like Horak, the genius of Northan’s performance as Queen Jocasta, her brother Creon, the blind prophet Tiresias, and an old shepherd is that once she gets into these characters, there’s no hesitation, she just acts straight. , but you can escape from them. Use them just as easily and quickly for spontaneous and often naughty fun. The continued participation of the choir is hilarious. It’s the pure, inspired madness we’ve come to expect from Northan, who not only acts but directs.
Ralamy Kneeshaw’s sets, costumes, masks and props give the production a professional sheen.
At the end of the evening, Northan’s elf promises that they are scouring the theater world for their next project and suggests that it might simply be Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. I hope this wasn’t an offhand comment, because I for one can already imagine Horak as Scrooge, Lalonde as Tiny Tim, and Northan as all the ghosts and townspeople.
Goblins: Oedipus, a spontaneous theater production, has almost finished its run. It plays Thursday at 7:30 pm, Friday at 7 and 9:30 pm and Saturday at 7 pm Tickets for the remaining performances are highly priced, so booking in advance is essential.