The Trackers of Oxyrynchus

by Tony Harrison

3 January - 28 January 2017

“I'm a God, Apollo, but I was tipped
On a rubbish tip inside this manuscript.
I’ve spent two thousand years asleep
On an Oxyrhynchus rubbish heap.”

The first UK production in nearly 30 years

The Trackers of Oxyrhnchus is now completely sold out for the entire run INCLUDING for an extra matinee on Thursday 26 January 2017 at 4.00pm

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Theatre Pick of the Week – The Telegraph
★★★★★ Reviewsgate
★★★★ London Theatre 1
★★★★ Theatre News
★★★★ Carn’s Theatre Passion
★★★★ London City Nights

In a new production commissioned by the Finborough Theatre, the rediscovery of Tony Harrison’s The Trackers of Oxyrhynchus in its first London production for nearly 30 years.

Egypt, 1907. Two archaeologists, Bernard Grenfell and Arthur Hunt, are searching for ancient fragments of poetry and plays, next to an old rubbish heap.

Until the Greek God, Apollo, descends from the skies…

Apollo is furious that they have failed to unearth the fragmentary text of a lost Satyr play by Sophocles. As he forces the two papyrologists to find the lost play, Grenfell and Hunt become part of the story they have discovered.

Multi-award-winning poet and playwright Tony Harrison remakes the ancient Greek original into a play for our times – and rediscovers the satyr play. Originally written to follow performances of all the great Greek tragedies, the satyr play is a short tragicomedy featuring a chorus with goat-like features and erect phalluses which is an essential and often neglected part of ancient Greek theatre.

Originally written for a unique one-performance world premiere in the ancient stadium of Delphi in 1988 with a cast including Jack Shepherd, Barrie Rutter and Juliet Stevenson, and subsequently seen at the National Theatre in 1990, this production is the first London production in nearly 30 years.

About The Playwright Tony Harrison

Playwright Tony Harrison was born in Leeds in 1937. He has written extensively for the National Theatre, New York Metropolitan Opera, BBC, Channel 4, Royal Shakespeare Company, and for ancient spaces in Greece, Austria and Japan. His volumes of poetry include The Loiners (Geoffrey Faber Memorial Prize), v. (Royal Television Society Award), The Gaze of the Gorgon (Whitbread Prize for Poetry) and Laureate's Block. His film Black Daisies for the Bride won the 1994 Prix Italia. He was awarded the PEN/Pinter Prize 2009, the European Prize for Literature 2010 and the David Cohen Prize for Literature 2015.

About The Director Jimmy Walters

Director Jimmy Walters returns to the Finborough Theatre following his acclaimed production of John Osborne's A Subject of Scandal and Concern . Other direction includes Julius Caesar (Saatchi Gallery and Chelsea Theatre), Improbable Fiction (Courtyard Theatre), A Naughty Night With Noël Coward (Old Red Lion Theatre), Hamlet (United Arab Emirates Tour and Network Theatre), I the Jury (Hen and Chickens Theatre), Breaded Butler (Troubadour) and Dear Ray (Edinburgh Festival). Assistant Direction includes Young Shakespeare Company tours of Twelfth Night and Romeo and Juliet (Bloomsbury Theatre), Othello (Riverside Studios) and Knock Yourself Out (Courtyard Theatre).

The Press on The Trackers of Oxyrynchus

“One of the most brilliantly original things the National has ever done.” The Sunday Times

“Harrison has created a glorious piece of total theatre.” Time Out

“One of the most thrilling and adventurous theatrical events in years.” The Guardian

“Likely to furnish a rude, public, funny and extrovert text for our times, to match the precise, private and grief-stricken V.” The Observer

The Press on Playwright Tony Harrison

“In the front rank of contemporary British poets…His range is exhilarating, his clarity and technical mastery a sharp pleasure” Melvyn Bragg

“A veracious appetite for language. Brilliant, passionate, outrageous, abrasive, but also, as in the family sonnets, immeasurably tender.” Harold Pinter

“Three decades on Tony Harrison’s angry but exquisite poetry still has the power to chill.” The Guardian

“A powerful voice bursting with passion, courage and anger.” The Independent

“The first genius working-class poet England has produced this century.” Blake Morrison, London Review of Books

“A poet of great technical accomplishment whose work insists that it is speech rather than page-bound silence” The Oxford Companion to Twentieth Century Poetry

The Press on Director Jimmy Walters' Production of A Subject Of Scandal And Concern

“The staging of this piece is sublime.” ★★★★★ Theatre Weekly

“Director Jimmy Walters, who has adapted this stage version, marshals the crowded thoughts and action with a fluid sense of tension.” ★★★★ Mark Shenton, The Stage

“Director Jimmy Walters has given Osborne’s legacy the most handsome and elegant staging.” ★★★★ Johnny Fox

“Jimmy Walters’ direction and Philip Lindley’s ingenious design create physical energy” ★★★★ Libby Purves, Theatre Cat

“Jimmy Walters’ production handles the multiple shifts of scene with great ingenuity.” Michael Billington, The Guardian

“Walters’ imaginative direction.” The Reviews Hub

“Expertly directed by Jimmy Walters” Sardines Magazine

“Intelligently and fluently directed by Jimmy Walters” Traffic Light Theatre Goer

The Press on The Trackers of Oxyrynchus at the Finborough Theatre

Theatre Pick of the Week – The Telegraph
★★★★★ Reviewsgate
★★★★ London Theatre 1
★★★★ Theatre News
★★★★ Carn’s Theatre Passion
★★★★ London City Nights

“When a pair of packing cases burst open and six satyrs emerge, this exuberant verse drama becomes memorably strange. Called on to locate a herd of cows belonging to the god Apollo, the satyrs dance thunderously and parade their phalluses — most of them pretty impressive.” Henry Hitchings, The Evening Standard

“Strange but compelling.” Alice Josephs, Traffic Light Theatregoer

“A bonkers joyousness.” Nick Holland, Partially Obstructed View

"I loved this. I enjoyed it enormously." Saturday Review, BBC Radio 4

“A whirlwind of a production.” Liz Dyer, The Blog of Theatre Things

“The Trackers of Oxyrhynchus is hard-hitting stuff but it comes with wit and hilarity and a fine sense of what makes good theatre. It is great entertainment.” Howard Luxton, British Theatre Guide

“Trackers is an exciting and illuminating affair.” Rod Dungate, Reviewsgate

“A show definitely worth seeing.” Terry Eastham, London Theatre 1

You will laugh, you will ponder and you will certainly continue to pull at threads and parallels long after you have left the theatre.” Nikki Santilli, Theatre News

"I loved all the hoofing, it's like something out of Stomp." Saturday Review, BBC Radio 4

“This 75-minute piece speaks powerfully about the fragility of art.” Henry Hitchings, The Evening Standard

“A powerful message.” Liz Dyer, The Blog of Theatre Things

“An admirable revival.” Charlotte Pegram, The Peg

“It is a fascinating story and this is a really good production.” Terry Eastham, London Theatre 1

“A stunningly good resurrection.” Rod Dungate, Reviewsgate

“The Trackers of Oxyrhynchus still feels seriously relevant. Even the unwieldy title seems to anticipate our cookie-tracked digital age and it's a green light for this intriguing, humorous yet troubling play.” Alice Josephs, Traffic Light Theatregoer

“An extraordinary and unusual play that should not be missed.” Carolin Kopplin, UK Theatre Network

“Lasting a fleet 75 minutes, the piece packs a huge amount in, critiquing today’s temples of high art and the persistence of social deprivation. It’s rough and ready but has fire in its hairy belly.” Dominic Cavendish, The Telegraph

“A very accessible production.” Nikki Santilli, Theatre News

“One can only hope it moves to another home in due course because it really is unmissable.” Rod Dungate, Reviewsgate

“A highly sophisticated polemic.” Patrick Marmion, Mail Online

“A rare staging in a production that does not disappoint.” Nikki Santilli, Theatre News

“A memorable spectacle, delivering a poignant blend of classical and modern.” Sarah Tinsley, Carn’s Theatre Passion

“The vitality of it, the absurdity of it, the Priapic nature of the whole thing." SATURDAY REVIEW, BBC RADIO 4

“A timely and welcome revival that seems to expand way beyond the small interior of the Finborough Theatre, and precisely the kind of ambitious, dynamic and downright weird production I like seeing.” David James, London City Nights

“The intimacy of the staging draws the audience into the performance.” Carolin Kopplin, UK Theatre Network

“An authenticity that is a breath of fresh air to watch.” Lucy Basaba, Theatre Full Stop

“The Trackers of Oxyrhynchus is a decidedly odd play, entertaining and tragic in equal measure.” Liz Dyer, The Blog of Theatre Things

“It is more than a quarter of a century since this splendid play, inspired by papyri that provide fragmentary text of a satyr play by Sophocles, was seen at the National Theatre following its single performance première at Delphi. It is a long time to wait for a London revival of something so lively.” Howard Luxton, British Theatre Guide

"The spirit of misrule is alive and kicking." Saturday Review, BBC Radio 4

“This wildly imaginative, angry and idiosyncratic comedy.” Sarah Hemming, Financial Times

“But the writing is mighty satisfying too – unfussy in its rhythms, but no less smart for that, and witty in its rhymes. It swerves from elegant expression to bawdy asides, and, in sitting the two together, pushes against the "unbridgeable split" of high and low art.” Matt Trueman, WhatsOnStage

“Tony Harrison’s rhyming verse is a constant delight.” Michael Billington, The Guardian

“The script celebrates the language of poetry and there is some important commentary on modern life.” Laura Kressly & Guest Writers, The Play’s the Thing UK

“It is a clarion call against the marginalisation of working class culture; one that feels all the more pressing today.” Matt Trueman, WhatsOnStage

“Tony Harrison's play is an altogether extraordinary work: an intricate palimpsest, an intellectual pantomime and an impassioned critique of cultural elitisim that features clog-dancing, phallus-waving satyrs, snooty Gods; rumbustious rhyming couplets, and a pair of highly strung archaeologists who become weirdly incorporated into the fragmentary Satyr play by Sophocles (the Ichneutae) that that they have discovered.” Paul Taylor, The Independent

“Tony Harrison's extraordinary verse play.” Matt Trueman, WhatsOnStage

“Harrison’s misrule is thoroughly artful.” Patrick Marmion, Mail Online

“Harrison’s modern take on a classical Greek form gives you plenty to enjoy – humour, euphoria (love the satyrs stamping around with their felt penises flapping free) and excitement.” Sarah Tinsley, Carn’s Theatre Passion

“Beautifully written and politically powerful.” Charlotte Pegram, The Peg

“Sophocles would have found his play still entirely topical.” Howard Luxton, British Theatre Guide

“A moving piece of writing, big-hearted and angry.” Rafaella Marcus, The Stage

“Richard Glaves is a splendid no nonsense Silenus.” Rod Dungate, Reviewsgate

“It’s Glaves' Silenus, raging against the gods and the elite, who puts fire into its belly and gives it some balls.” Matt Trueman, WhatsOnStage

“A highlight is Richard Glaves as Silenus.” David James, London City Nights

“Tom Purbeck really shone as both the maniacally obsessed archaeologist Grenfell and the arrogant god Apollo.” Terry Eastham, London Theatre 1

“Purbeck particularly excels.” Liz Dyer, The Blog of Theatre Things

“Tom Purbeck a spell binding.” Rod Dungate, Reviewsgate

“Purbeck has a haughty intensity as Apollo.” Matt Trueman, WhatsOnStage

“Purbeck and Glaves both give powerful performances that could carry in an ancient Greek amphitheatre but are so rooted in character they aren’t out of place in the Finborough’s small space, vibrating like the clamorous clog dances of this fine chorus of satyrs.” Howard Luxton, British Theatre Guide

“Tom Purbeck and Richard Glaves lead the cast with strong performances.” Liz Dyer, The Blog of Theatre Things

"The performances of Richard Glaves and Tom Purbeck in particular were excellent." Saturday Review, BBC Radio 4

“The ensemble playing is immaculate.” Rod Dungate, Reviewsgate

“Excellent delivery by all the actors.” Nikki Santilli, Theatre News

“Director Jimmy Walters has put together an assured production.” Terry Eastham, London Theatre 1

“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.” Rod Dungate, Reviewsgate

“This punchily persuasive production by Jimmy Walters.” Paul Taylor, The Independent

“There is nothing limp about Jimmy Walters’ production.” Michael Billington, The Guardian

“In London’s tiniest theatrical powerhouse, Jimmy Walters gives the play a thoroughly professional 75-minute production with a lusty young cast.” Patrick Marmion, Mail Online

“Jimmy Walters' intriguing production.” Carolin Kopplin, UK Theatre Network

“Walters' energetic direction.” Alice Josephs, Traffic Light Theatregoer

“Jimmy Walters’s production fits a full-blooded production into a small space. It bursts into our consciousness without feeling cramped.” Howard Luxton, British Theatre Guide

“A terrific set.” Rod Dungate, Reviewsgate

“It’s a smart revival from the Finborough.” Rafaella Marcus, The Stage

“Amy Lawrence’s full-blooded choreography.” Rafaella Marcus, The Stage

“The diminutive Finborough Theatre has a track record for unearthing interesting gems, so it’s apt that they begin the New Year by digging out Tony Harrison’s exuberant excavation of a Greek satyr play. It’s a bold choice: Harrison’s text (staged in 1990 at the National Theatre) is written in verse with smatterings of ancient Greek; the action switches from 1907, to Sophocles’ time, to the modern day, and combines clog-dancing and giant phalluses with a blistering assault on social inequality and elitism in art.” Sarah Hemming, Financial Times

“With Amy Lawrence’s vigorous choreography, it is a joy to hammer in the New Year with some robust clog-dancing.” Sarah Hemming, Financial Times

3 January - 28 January 2017

Tickets and Times

Monday 7:30pm
Tuesday 7:30pm
Wednesday 7:30pm
Thursday 7:30pm
Friday 7:30pm
Saturday 3:00pm
7:30pm
Sunday 3:00pm

Approximately 75 minutes with no interval