Stephen Rea heads a stellar cast in new Sam Shepard play in Derry

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Stephen Rea and Field Day Theatre Company made a welcome return to The Playhouse in Derry with the world première of a new play by legendary American writer Sam Shepard.

A Particle of Dread (Oedipus Variations) is Shepard’s interpretation of the story of Oedipus, the mythical king whose tragic tale was first dramatised by Sophocles two thousand years ago. This Ancient Greek classic is re-imagined as a modern thriller set in the desert of the American West. Stephen Rea and Brid Brennan lead a cast of seven Irish actors under the direction of Nancy Meckler, with live music performed by acclaimed cellist Neil Martin.

Sam Shepard has gained the critical regard and iconic status enjoyed by only a rare few in American theatre in his almost fifty year career. He has been based in Derry throughout rehearsals for A Particle of Dread (Oedipus Variations), working closely with Field Day to create a memorable theatrical event for the 2013 City of Culture progamme. Introducing some of the themes explored in his play, Shepard said: “I think Sophocles must have had an intention. I don’t think he was writing just for the heck of it. I think he knew very well what we all know yet pretend not to. I think he knew we each have a destiny and a fate. That they work side by side, whether we see it or not. That this destiny is somehow written; forecast, like the weather.”

Irish playwright Thomas Kilroy welcomed this original new contribution to Field Day’s canon of work and said: “A Particle of Dread (Oedipus Variations) is a remarkable example of an old play morphing into a brand new one before our eyes through the magic of performance and great writing for the stage. Like other Field Day writers before him Sam Shepard is here revisiting a classical author of European theatre. Seeing the classic anew, giving it a fresh language, reimagining it in the light of the contemporary. The transformation is a brilliant one. Like all great myths this one has something profound to say about human life.”

Speaking ahead of the opening night senior cultural programmer for communities and education with the Culture Company, Martin Melarkey, said the production was a highlight in the cultural programme. “The link between Field Day and the city extends back over 30 years, and it was an obvious choice to reaffirm that relationship in 2013,” he said.

“As we near the conclusion of an amazing year, it’s fitting that one of our final events should be one of such integrity and literary significance.”

Particle of Dread (Oedipus Variations) opened on Thursday night and runs at The Playhouse in Derry until Saturday December 7. The production has been made possible thanks to the support of the Culture Company, the British Council and the Department for Culture, Arts and Leisure. Tickets are on sale now via The Playhouse website ( or by calling box office on 028 71 268027.