Gilgamesh

The Crick Crack Club’s Gilgamesh is a tour de force piece of storytelling. Ben Haggarty provides a sumptuous delivery of this ancient text and instrumentalist Jonah Brody provides an intriguing soundtrack. It’s a fascinating evening of entertainment but also one that requires a high level of concentration and an interest in historical narrative.

It’s outlandish to say the least, with a lucid narrative structure and bizarre fits of imagination such as a God whose face resembles intestines, a beast man breastfed by gazelles and utterly freaky eroticism.

Crick Crack specialise in promoting performance storytelling throughout the UK with an emphasis on folktale and myth. With Gilgamesh, they’ve found the oldest one in the world. Gilgamesh is essentially a superhero story set in the early days of man’s creation. A man with superhuman strength, Gilgamesh becomes a tyrannical King, but the beast man Enkidu teaches him that people should not serve their King, a King should serve his people. Together they embark on a road trip of God and beast slaying, changing the world as they go and discovering what it truly means to be MEN. It’s outlandish to say the least, with a lucid narrative structure and bizarre fits of imagination such as a God whose face resembles intestines, a beast man breastfed by gazelles and utterly freaky eroticism.

Ben Haggarty delights in the eccentric elements of this ancient epic, revelling in the sumptuousness and mythical imagination of the text. It’s absorbing and often very funny to listen to and Haggarty tells the story with great energy and imagination. His background in mime is evident as his movements often physicalize his storytelling wonderfully giving life to the imaginative text. Whilst instrumentalist Jonah Brody provides some intriguing and very unique accompanying music and sounds to create an otherworldly ambience. It complements the storytelling brilliantly.

It’s also interesting to hear, in this very early Sumerian text, tales which we find recurring in Greek and Roman myth and also the Bible. Gilgamesh is not only of another time but of another world and yet within it are questions and streams of narrative we still explore today. As such, Gilgamesh proves undeniably poignant as not only does it ask humanity’s biggest questions, but it philosophically tries to answer them.

At over two hours (with an interval), and as a mostly static piece of storytelling, it requires a lot of concentration and patience. There is so much to take in of the sprawling narrative that you can lose your place in it at times. As such it’s certainly not for everyone. But if you’re interested in Gilgamesh and historical and ancient narratives this is a great way to explore the oldest known text in the world.

Reviews by Dave House

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Performances

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The Blurb

The archaeological world was abuzz recently when a new chapter of the ancient Sumerian Epic of Gilgamesh was found on a stone tablet. The whole epic was written down in such fragments; it took scholars and experts years to piece it together in [what they think is] the right order. The epic – minus the new part - can be read in book form – but it was meant to be heard. Which is why star storyteller Ben Haggarty and musician Jonah Brody (Sam Lee & Friends, Super Best Friends Club) are bringing a powerful retelling to the stage this month.