THE TRACKERS OF OXYRHYNCHUS
by Tony Harrison
The Finborough Theatre, 118 Finborough Road, London SW10 9ED to 28 January 2017.
Tues-Sat 7.30pm Mat Sat & Sun 3pm.
Runs 75 mins No interval.
TICKETS: 0844 847 1652
Review: William Russell 5 January.
A stunningly good resurrection
It is some thirty years since Tony Harrison’s verse drama about the gods and satyrs was last seen in a production at the National Theatre and one has to wonder why it has not been revived before now. The Finborough is devoted to rediscoveries as well as to new writing and this is buried treasure indeed given a muscular and stylish production by director Jimmy Walters.
Greek drama as we know it tends to be about the gods being implacable and mortals doomed to terrible fates they cannot escape. But it had its lighter pieces, broad, vulgar, bawdy and very sexy farcical plays about satyrs, drinking too much and generally licentious behaviour. Unlike the dramas they have hardly survived.
Harrison’s play written in rhyming couplets opens in 1907 in Egypt where two archaeologists, Hunt (Richard Glaves), a no nonsense, pragmatic chap, and Grenfell (Tom Purbeck), deeply neurotic and intense, are digging for old Greek manuscripts preserved in the desert. Most of the material is accounts, bills of sale and the like which does not worry Hunt. Grenfell, however, longs to find the lost plays about the satyrs and this obsession takes over – suddenly the two men are transformed into the Satyr leader, Silenus (Hunt) and the god Apollo (Grenfell) and the world of the plays is rediscovered as the chorus of satyrs burst out of the crates of old papyri half man, half beast and sporting the most amazing genitalia.
Their dancing has to be seen to be believed and whether the Finborough floor can bear the weight of the goings on only time will tell, but they scared the living daylights out of me. Trackers is an exciting and illuminating affair, has a terrific set all floating beige curtains and scraps of papyrus by Phil Lindley, and an ending to chill as Apollo disappears and Silenus is left at the mercy of his followers. Now present day homeless or just yobs pure and simple, they turn on him and film his being beaten up on their mobile phones. The ensemble playing is immaculate, Peta Cornish, the only woman in the cast, makes an effective interruption as a nymph called Kyllene, Richard Glaves is a splendid no nonsense Silenus, and Tom Purbeck a spell binding Apollo, although he could calm down a little. The venue is small and a little less intensity would work wonders. On can only hope it moves to another home in due course because it really is unmissable.
Fellaheen/ Satyrs/Homeless/ Hooligans : Dylan Mason, James Rigby, Nik Drake, Sacha Mandel, Dannie Pye, Adam Small
Hunt/Silenus: Richard Glaves.
Grenfell/Apollo: Tom Purbeck.
Kyllene: Peta Cornish.
Hermes/Pale Boy: Dylan Mason.
Director: Jimmy Walters.
Set Designer: Phil Lindley.
Lighting Designer: Tara Marricdale.
Costume Designer: Alexander William Connatty.
Composer: Piers Sherwood Roberts.
Choreographer: Amy Lawrence.