What if Oedipus lived in Ancient Egypt, killed the Sphinx, and became a personality cult – his face on the cover of Time, Oedipus dolls in the shops, and non-stop, fawning coverage on every TV and radio station? Yes, that’s right: TV and radio in Ancient Egypt.

The Comedy Of Oedipus is Egyptian playwright Ali Salem’s hilarious, surreal, but always relevant reinvisioning of Sophocles’ classical tragedy in the Thebes of Ancient Egypt – only this land of pharoahs and pyramids has popularity contests and papparazzi, too, and however hard Oedipus tries to modernise his people’s thinking, they only worship him more. Ali Salem’s 1970 satire not only captures the absurdities and incongruities of mass communication, it throws a strong dimension into today’s Egypt and its societal and political challenges and dreams for the future.

Ali Salem is famed throughout the Arab world as a brilliant comic playwright, whose best-known work is Madraset Al Moshaghbeen. In The Comedy Of Oedipus, the wit and offbeat humour of his surprisingly ‘Pythonesque’ vision of a world determined to go mad translate easily into both the English language and the notoriously elusive British sense of humour.


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