In May 2019, FOUR OF SWORDS unveiled the latest addition to its dark canon of Ancient Greek adaptations: a re-imagining of Sophocles’ OEDIPUS REX.

OEDIPUS entertained full audiences and received rave reviews. Visitors especially enjoyed the show’s singing, special effects, and characterful cameos.

Four of Swords’ retelling of Oedipus is mind-blowing and takes us out of our cushioned comfort zones. Philip Kingslan John’s treatment of Oedipus is dreamy – cleverly constructed, stuffed with improbability and fantasy, yet totally accessible and completely compelling.
Anna Marks, Remote Goat

What an absolutely wonderful experience. We enjoyed it very much – the acting, the costume, the script, the humour (would you believe it) and the voices, I particularly loved your interpretation of the chorus. 
Doctor of Classics & Ancient History at Exeter University

We were spellbound throughout. Brilliant.
Audience feedback

I know nothing about Greek tragedies, and didn’t know what to expect. The acting, the singing, the script, the staging and setting was all brilliant. I took my wife, also not a huge fan of theatre, she came away mesmerised.
Audience feedback


When we first started approaching the text of OEDIPUS, we wanted to make it very different visually from MEDEA.

We saw an opportunity to do this in the depiction of the gods, and in the intriguing connections between the tale of Oedipus and the world of ancient Egypt.

Oedipus is clearly a Greek story, but it features the Egyptian motif, the Sphinx. Why? Furthermore, both Greece and Egypt had cities which were known in Greek as “Thebes”. The hypothesis has been proposed by Immanuel Velikovsky that this character of Oedipus was initially based on the pharaoh Akhnaton.

This fuelled our imaginations, and we began researching links between the Egyptian and Greek religious systems. Throughout the ancient world there was always an enthusiasm for aligning deities from different traditions; see this photo of “Hermanubis”, fusion of Hermes and Anubis. We were also inspired by Jean Cocteau’s version of Oedipus, La Machine Infernale, where Anubis turns up as companion for the Sphinx. We therefore turned all of the deities in our play into hybrid-forms from Greek and Egyptian myth.

Photographs by Matt Austin and Ian Bateman.

This production was only made possible with the kind support of the Arts Council.

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TO REFUGE is an immersive theatre experience taking place at The Mermaid on Gandy Street, Exeter. It is based on In the Bowels of the Earth by Ukrainian author Elena Hapieieva, describing her experiences in a makeshift bomb shelter as Russia invades Ukraine. It is a tender, angry, sorrowful portrait of a community suddenly placed under extreme and inexplicable duress.

Beyond Hapieieva’s raw, crucially current text, we cast our gaze backwards and forwards through time. We are performing this play in a basement on Gandy Street which was itself used as a bomb shelter during WW2. Extracts are woven in from other contemporary Ukrainian works and from the Exeter Blitz Project, a piece of verbatim theatre commissioned ten years ago and collecting the memories of those who survived the mass bombing of Exeter during WW2. We want to support, sympathise and express absolute solidarity with our friends in Ukraine, as well as to challenge our audiences to consider what happens next if unbridled aggression is left unopposed.

TO REFUGE is part of the Worldwide Ukrainian Play Readings Project. It is being produced by Four of Swords and Maketank in collaboration with Exeter Phoenix and Arts and Culture Exeter University. Tickets cost £15 and all sales will be going to the Devon Ukrainian Association.


For more information on the work of the Devon Ukrainian Association, please go to www.devonforukraine.com.

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