Get to know the man behind Internationaal Theater Amsterdam's revelatory updating of Sophocles’ tragedy Oedipus before it hits theatres this August.
Who is Robert Icke?
He’s a critically acclaimed writer and director who’s been described as both ‘the great hope of British theatre’ and ‘one of the most important forces in today’s theatre’. Critics, particularly the younger generation, adore him. Time Out’s Andrzej Lukowski said of his Wild Duck adaptation, ‘Totemic Almeida associate Robert Icke is such a ludicrously and consistently good director that I sometimes find myself wearily bracing for the brilliance of his shows. Trotting slowly through the white male canon, in productions rarely shy of three hours, it can all sound a bit like taking your theatrical medicine. But in practice, it’s almost always extraordinary.’
Aged just 32, he’s the youngest ever winner of an Olivier Award for Best Director, which he won for his adaptation of Oresteia. Produced at London’s Almeida theatre in 2015, it was a huge hit, transferred to the West End, and won a stack of awards, including the Best Director prizes at both the Critics Circle and Evening Standard Theatre Awards. In 2018, he won the Kurt Hübner Award for his debut production in Germany and was elected Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature.
Icke takes the classics and electrifies them, seeking to make them as relevant to contemporary audiences as they were in their original productions. He’s written and directed new versions of plays by Aeschylus, Ibsen, Schiller and Chekhov, to great success. He has described his philosophy of adaptation as ‘like using a foreign plug. You are in a country where your hairdryer won’t work when you plug it straight in. You have to find the adapter which will let the electricity of now flow into the old thing and make it function.’
Fantastically successful in the UK and USA, he’s also in demand in Europe – in the past two years he’s premiered Oedipus at Internationaal Theater Amsterdam (ITA), The Crucible at Theater Basel and Oresteia at Schauspiel Stuttgart. His forthcoming shows include Children of Nora at ITA, loosely based on Ibsen’s A Doll’s House, and a new version of Chekhov’s Ivanov at Schauspiel Stuttgart.
At heart, he’s a true collaborator – and has repeatedly worked with an incredible set of actors including Lia Williams, Tobias Menzies, Juliet Stevenson, Jessica Brown Findlay, Luke Thompson, Lorna Brown, Daniel Rabin, Rudi Dharmalingham, Joshua Higgott, and Angus Wright. With Oedipus, he’s united with the ITA ensemble, including the sensational Hans Kesting and Marieke Heebink, who play Oedipus and Jocaste.
Robert Icke's production of Oedipus comes to the International Festival on 14-17 August 2019. Watch the trailer above.