With roots in Grotowski’s theatrical style and the laboratory theatre of 1970s Poland, Company of Wolves are known for their striking, collaborative work that fuses dance, physical and experimental theatre. This year’s Fringe offering of Achilles has clearly originated from the same background, but I am having trouble connecting the finished product with the effect that I was anticipating.
A talented performer and a lot of potential.
For those not familiar with the classic Greek tale, Achilles is one of the most revered and loved figures in Grecian mythology (you may have heard about his heel, but that doesn’t come into this story). On the occasion that he chooses not to fight in the Battle of Troy, his dear friend Patroclus joins the battle in his place and is slain by the Trojan’s hero, Hector of Troy. What follows is a mercilessly bloody quest for vengeance that takes us into the frenzied mind of the bereaved Achilles.
Written, co-directed and performed by the company’s artistic director Ewan Downie, it’s a truly stripped-down interpretation: Downie emerges in plain khaki onto a black square space centre-stage, with only four corner lights to cast eerie shadows on the wall. It works well, but the lack of any soundscape beyond the haunting vocals forced out of our tortured hero seems like a trick has been missed here.
It’s a tough one; the exertion on the performer’s part is clear to see, and there is a raw energy emanating from Downie that bubbles under the surface, waiting to be released. On the other hand, there simply weren’t enough opportunities for him to do so. I loved the contrast between frenzied chase scenes and an empty, exhausted lonliness that hovered over the production, and it may have been the performance I saw which felt like it was teetering on the edge of something truly special.
Achilles evokes an outpouring of grief in a brutally beautiful 45 minutes, but overall I felt the parts were more than the sum of the whole. Nonetheless, it’s a powerful narrative, with a talented performer and a lot of potential.