A stomach-turning celebration of death at Belvoir Theatre.

January 17, Belvoir Theatre

Oedipus Schmoedipus is an exercise in the experimental, and a largely unsuccessful one. The show’s central concept: 'What is death?' serves as the inspiration for a seemingly random hour of comic skits tied loosely together by copious amounts of fake blood.

As bewildering as it was violent, the show’s opening scene – introducing writers and performers Mish Grigor and Zoë Coombs Marr – provided a shocking and adrenaline-fuelled display of suicide. From gunshot to stabbing to bombing, the two performers’ brazen and repeated self-harm was accompanied by a humorously ill-fitting soundtrack by Rihanna. Many theatre-goers faced their shock with laughter; others shielded their eyes.

Post-bloodbath, the following ten minutes saw cleaners thoroughly mopping up the stage. Avante-garde skit or OH&S requirement, it remains unclear.

On with the show and Grigor and Coombs Marr made their triumphant return to the stage, (having somehow survived the opening skit), and launched into a wholly simplistic comedy routine. After posing hot-topic questions to the audience: “What is death?”, and “How can we recognise it?”, the duo fused the thoughts of great writers – Aeschylus, Chekhov, Ibsen, Molière, Strindberg et al – with banal wordplay:  “We wouldn’t call them ‘The Greats’ if they weren’t great!”

Thankfully, with the entrance of 25 volunteers, things improved. Having a modicum of rehearsal time under their belts, the volunteers formed a chorus that spoke, moved and danced in response to instructions relayed to them via monitors in the lighting grid. In the show's remaining 50 minutes, the motley ensemble provided a refreshingly authentic display of nervousness and spontaneity, navigating a variety of dance routines, hilarious costumes and grand death-related proclamations from history’s great plays.

“We’re all going to die,” they also chanted on occasions, slowly coming to terms with humanity’s shared fate.

The show, in all its comic nonsense, offered a bold challenge to the discomfort we often feel when subjected to thoughts of dying and death. At only 70 minutes long, however, it still managed to feel drawn out and repetitive, foundering in an overly-simplistic approach to an endlessly intriguing subject. 

Oedipus Schmoedipus runs at Belvoir Theatre until February 2