Jocasta: A Musical Tragedy by Louis Barabbas

Release date: May 5, 2017
Label: Debt Records

Jocasta, for those without a Classics degree, may not be the most instantly recognisable of names, but a simple addition of her son’s moniker changes all that – Oedipus, the original mo-fo and the central character in the most tragic of Greek tragedies.

Their story has been a rich source of material for many an artistic endeavour, from plays to paintings, and now, thanks to the quick and twisting mind of Louis Barabbas, a musical.

As anyone with even a passing knowledge of Louis’ work will expect, this is not a straight telling of the tale. Weaving in strands from the modern world, his Jocasta is a story not only of incest, but also of media manipulation and political power games, becoming a fable not for just ancient times, but for today too.

Along the way, we meet a resistance leader singing rallying cries in a country style, a queen bemoaning the lack of romance in the truth of poverty in the style of Edith Piaf, a spin doctor defining the difference between people and the people and dividing the populous with the results, a banker suggesting that an economic downturn at least makes life interesting and a multitude of others caught between the past and the present.

Barabbas himself appears amongst the throng, but the majority of the performances he leaves to an eclectic and brilliant cast of singers, who give new twists to the lyrical acrobatics and musical panache that Barabbas’s songwriting has always had writ large through it.

Kicking off with a wonderfully bluesy number, ‘Welcome To The Upside Down’ – featuring The Breath and Honeyfeet’s Rioghnach Connolly on tip top form – the double album takes in a myriad of styles, all expertly handled and delivered with verve.

Bridie Jackson‘s twinkling ‘Lullaby’ and discordant ‘I Will Howl’ both shine, Natasha Hodgson‘s vintage musical turn ‘If That’s What You Call Progress’ has comedy and class in equal measure and ‘Same Again’, sung superbly by former Inspiral Carpets frontman Tom Hingley, might just be the finest rum-sodden oompah drinking song you’ll hear this side of the Rhine.

There are also fine turns from Felix Hagan, Tom Robinson, Becca Williams, Richard Barry and a particularly dastardly Jami Reid-Quarrell, who delivers his showpiece, Hate, with all the bile and subtefuge such a name would suggest.

That the disparate elements all hold together in a glorious and gregarious musical is impressive and something that Barabbas should be proud of. Known for his folk rock and his outlandish, energetic stage performances, he has added a further brilliant string to his bow. Let us hope that this is not his only foray into the world of musicals.

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