IT'S easy enough to understand the concept behind Lee Breuer and Jim Telson's mighty Gospel At Colonus. On one hand, there's the grandeur of Sophocles' play, which shows an aged, blind and broken Oedipus arriving with his daughters in the village of Colonus, and recognising it as the place where he will die, provided he can first make peace with the gods.
On the other hand, there's the magnificent, ecstatic tradition of gospel worship in the black churches of the southern United States, with its traditions of choral singing and response, and themes of release and redemption - all similar to Greek tragedy. Then there's the imagination of Breuer and Tilson, who decided 30 years ago to bring these old-world and new-world traditions together; and who have been developing and expanding the idea ever since a studio version of the show first appeared in Edinburgh in 1982.
What's more difficult to absorb, though, is the sheer force, colour and complexity of the spectacle that unfolds on the huge stage of the Playhouse. Part church service, part classical drama, part rousing gospel jam session, the 2010 version of the show is a spectacular business, staged against a ruined amphitheatre wall that flickers with images of gods and angels, and featuring a cast of more than 40, led by the legendary singers, The Blind Boys Of Alabama. It's also deeply counter-cultural, in that many of the performers are now old and slow-moving, and none of the fabulous women on stage are slim.
Yet the force of the music and singing is often staggering, adding a whole new dimension of inventive freedom, hard-lived experience and sheer soul to the range of Festival sounds. I'm not sure whether the collision with the gospel tradition finally reveals much that is new about the story of Oedipus. I'm certain, though, that the collision with Oedipus reveals a great deal about the gospel tradition; about its vocal and musical complexity, and its profound moral wisdom, in raising people up from their suffering, and setting them free at last.