Pros: The Trackers of Oxyrhynchus features good choreography and the show makes good use of the space.
Cons: Occasionally the production is a bit too frenetic given the size of the venue.
The Trackers of Oxyrhynchus is a one act play written entirely in rhyme. The show begins in early 20th century Egypt (the Oxrhynchus of the title), where two archaeologists are searching through a rubbish heap full of ancient Greek texts. The Greek god Apollo speaks through Grenfell (Tom Purbeck), one of the archaeologists, and gets the pair to search specifically for a lost play by Sophocles (The Ichneutae or Trackers). The pair’s search leads to the explosive arrival of a group of rowdy and bawdy satyrs from a number of packing crates on the stage and the play’s action moves to ancient Greece. The show then follows the known part of Sophocles’ lost play, with the satyrs assisting Apollo in the search for his herd of cattle, followed by Apollo’s encounter with the nymph Kyllene and the ‘baby’ Hermes. The play ends in a modern day London on the South Bank.
The small performance space was used excellently throughout the show, with an awful lot of action packed onto the tiny stage, including some enjoyably noisy clog dancing by the satyrs (choreographed by Amy Lawrence). The deterioration of the satyrs conduct into violence in the latter, modern-day part of the production was also well portrayed, with the fight scene in particular conveying a real sense of danger and intimidation.
The Trackers of Oxrhynchus features some witty lines, amusing moments and fun costumes. The furry satyr goat leggings even included knitted genitalia of varying shapes and sizes and Hermes wore a giant nappy. Likewise, the atmospheric set was cleverly constructed and well-used throughout.
Tom Purbeck was impressively scary and disturbing as the archaeologist Grenfell, possessed by Apollo, and Richard Glaves conveyed well the rage, despair and final resignation of Silenus. The rest of the cast were strong, although the acting was sometimes a little too frenetic and screechy for such a small venue.
Tony Harrison’s text appears to comment on many things (including the environment, homelessness, social mobility and migration) but focuses mostly on the topic of access – or lack thereof – to ‘high’ art and culture. Given this core theme, I wondered why the play ended at the Royal Festival Hall on the South Bank as opposed to Covent Garden, which I think would have really driven this point hope.
The Trackers of Oxrhynchus is an amusing, if slightly strange and disjointed, play and Finbourgh Theatre’s not quite thirtieth anniversary revival is well presented given the size of the venue.
Author: Tony Harrison
Director: Jimmy Walters
Producer: Proud Haddock in association with Neil McPherson
Music: Piers Sherwood Roberts
Choreography: Amy Lawrence
Box Office: 0844 847 1652
Booking Link: http://www.ticketweb.co.uk/venue/finborough-theatre-london-tickets/finboroerd/905
Booking Until: 28 January 2017