Prometheus Bound (Io’s Version) finds itself in a double bind. As it wavers between the half-tragic and half-comic, it doesn’t quite succeed in either, and the pathos of Io’s story is lost somewhere in the middle. Production value is impressive and feminist sentiment spot on, but the great potential of Myths Unbound Productions’ first show burns itself out.
Half-tragic and half-comic
This take on Aeschylus’ classic ought to be a breath of fresh air in a tale that sidelines Io (Alyssa McGuire) for Prometheus (Gunnar Bjercke) with his hero complex. Missing,
however, is the fear driving these tragic characters. The play’s focus is, understandably, on Io, but as much as Bjercke’s sarcasm is comical in the first half, Prometheus never seems particularly inconvenienced by being bound: perhaps his chains are too slack?
One of the more effective moments of physical theatre is the pursuit of Io as she herself is bound and turned into a cow, but McGuire doesn’t quite convey the grotesquerie of her metamorphosis and torture of gadflies. Any pathos in McGuire’s performance is suffocated by quips that cheapen the tragedy of the plot. By her final monologue, however, we see a glimmer of the humble, resigned Io, and when it comes, it is beautiful: “I had dreams of doing things. Then I had dreams of things being done to me.” Its frankness is the script’s saving grace.
This is not to say that humour has no place in tragedy. 'Professional daddy’s boy' James Hay brings clever characterisation as Hermes and Hephaestus to heighten the banality of Zeus’ evil, but jokes about Roombas and Google Maps distract from the sexual violence Io faces. The chorus works well as a unit and Sarah Michelle Ault’s comedic timing is superb. It would have been poignant to see them finally empathise with Io’s suffering, but their comical aloofness does not serve the central thrust of the tragedy.
The cast show real passion as they pull together to perform well-choreographed movement sequences, rearrange the set, rattle chains, address the audience, while music blares and lights flash around the theatre. Their energy is astonishing but only by the end of the play does it approach the pity and fear we look for in Io’s story. I return the chorus’ question back to the cast: “Why are you just sitting here? This is a tragedy!”