Forget Justin Bieber and his legions of ‘beliebers’. In this play, set in Ancient Rome, hot young gladiator Marcus Distilius is propelled to fame after a series of victories, earning him his own devoted fans who all themselves ‘distiples’. It’s a cautionary tale about the trials and tribulations of modern celebrity against an ancient backdrop.
The Decline and Fall of Marcus Distilius is a clever comedy that is well realised by the talented team from the Revolving Shed Company.
An excellent ensemble carries us through this story from Marcus’ first victory, his relationship with dear friend Posthumous and how he is changed by fame. (Of course, Posthumous would be most disappointed if Marcus were to die in the gladiator pit, not least because Posthumous has always wanted to die first and be remembered.) Along the way, Marcus stops listening to his coach, Gaius, and becomes overly influenced by the hilariously flamboyant Posca, who is famous for being famous and has opinions on how Marcus’ helmet should look – a large plume might weigh him down and make it more likely he’ll be killed, sure, but at least he’ll look good. Posca is both recognisable as that type of dangerous influence that can be the downfall for naïve child stars and as the proto-Kardashian hungry for fame and desperate for attention. He steals every scene he’s in. As Marcus’s fame and arrogance grows, he forsakes his friend Posthumous and falls in love with Lucrecia, a beautiful girl from a powerful family, but as his fame begins to change him, will the true Marcus emerge as a loser?
There’s something delightful about transplanting these modern concerns into Ancient Rome in 100 AD. I enjoyed the use of modern language and some pop culture references combined with more classical references. The comic timing is great and the script, by Fionn Shiner and Freddie Gower, is sharp. The Decline and Fall of Marcus Distilius is a clever comedy that is well realised by the talented team from the Revolving Shed Company.