Scott Wings has taken this classical myth and twisted it like beaten metal. In his hands, or words, it becomes a dynamic fusion of spoken word, physical theatre, comedy and poetry. A few minutes in, Wings declares that ‘poetry is running circles in my head.’ His brand of spoken word is totally idiosyncratic, personal and zany. This is a mesmerising hour of lyrical storytelling which unflinchingly explores mental illness using the metaphor of flight.
This show is a heartrending exploration of one man’s battle with mental illness, which unlocks an imaginative and funny door into the world of classical mythology.
The small stage space is littered with feathers, signifying the disastrous results of the waxen feathery wings when pitted against the sun. Wings frames the show with a highly physical representation of flight, beating his arms (or rather wings) and shouting ‘Open! Close!’ He expertly holds a range of styles and themes in tension throughout the show.
Wings is part-poet, part-rapper. His theme swings between retelling the Icarus myth and his experience of mental illness. The genius of the concept lies in the way in which he ties the soaring highs and lows of flight with those of manic depression. The story is punctuated by digressions that blend seamlessly into the narrative. One example is when Wings depicts the turbulent father-son relationship between Daedelus and Icarus. Daedelus, portrayed using grotesque physical body language, labels his son a ‘cliché’ for living in a dream-world, collecting feathers and writing poems in the dust. Icarus’ response melds into Wings’ own personal experience, becoming an extended poetic monologue on clichés that is at once realistic, angry, bitter and heartfelt. He weaves eccentric imagery into the fabric of his verse, at one point becoming lost in ‘my own pet black hole on a chain.’ He uses the metaphor of ‘bottled lightning’ as a vehicle for his frustration, stretching the conceit for a good ten minutes. At one point he reaches for the ‘jar’ containing this lightning, pulling it out of the air, and asks an audience member to hold on to it. This poetic, physical device is an inspired touch, revealing the dangers of bottling up raw emotion.
The diversity of styles that Wings has drawn upon in creating this hour of physical storytelling is especially evident in the musicality of the piece. There is a tangible hip-hop influence, which can be subtly felt in the flowing rhythms of his spoken word. He controls the dynamics carefully, giving the impression of barely contained mania. The verse frequently slips into iambic pentameter: ‘My wings are burst hearts and spinal fluid.’
The audience was held in thrall as the painstakingly personal, poetic monologue unravelled, like the thread in the Minotaurs’ labyrinth prison. This show is a heartrending exploration of one man’s battle with mental illness, which unlocks an imaginative and funny door into the world of classical mythology.