Rami Malek, Lesley Manville, Mark Strong and Indira Varma will star in ‘Oedipus’ in the West End (just not the same one)

London-based fans of people accidentally marrying their own mothers then stabbing their eyes out in remorse are in for a treat thanks to two major adaptations of Sophocles’ ‘Oedipus’ that were, bizarrely, announced within half an hour of each other last night (January 18).

And what productions! At 18:32 we discovered that visionary director Robert Icke’s own adaptation would finally be coming to town: his ‘Oedipus’ originated in Amsterdam and had been due to make its English-language debut in 2020, with no less than Helen Mirren in the role of Jocasta, the eponymous successful politician’s mother-slash-wife. She’s out: but all-round Brit legend Lesley Manville is a fine replacement, starring opposite the mighty Mark Strong in the title role at Wyndham’s Theatre.

Then at 19:02, the Old Vic revealed that it was staging its own ‘Oedipus’ in January 2025. Marking the UK stage debut of Academy Award-winning US actor Rami Malek opposite our own beloved Indira Varma, it sounds like a very different affair, being co-directed by Old Vic boss Matthew Warchus and legendary choreographer Hofesh Schechter, with a new adaptation from top playwright Ella Hickson.

Given neither show is in fact currently on sale, the theatre world has been ablaze with speculation as to why both shows were announced at such a weird time of the day – new show announcements are almost without fail made in the morning – and obviously in response to each other. Is it a weird feud between the Old Vic and Icke’s producer Sonia Friedman? 

We couldn’t possibly say, but when we enquired, a terse statement from the Old Vic emphasised that its production had been in the works since 2019. Not a question we’d asked, but did strongly suggest that the theatre was keen not to be seen to be copying. We have yet to receive a reply from the PR for the other ‘Oedipus’.

Really, though, we don’t see the problem. This sort of thing happens with Shakespeare all the time, we should just be excited that four great actors are coming to star in two exciting productions – which should be pretty different to each other and seem unlikely to actually physically overlap in terms of runs. Just don’t take your parents!

‘Oedipus’ runs at Wyndham’s Theatre from October 4. Sign up here for more information.

The other ‘Oedipus’ will run at the Old Vic from January 2025. Sign up here for more information.

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