It says something about us as a
species that one of our oldest myths, crystallised in the form of Homer’s epic poem
There is much to enjoy about this production; Simon Wilkinson’s lighting design sets time and mood through brilliant use of colour, while Claire McKenzie’s vocal score – performed by the cast – is dramatically impactful.
“We gods are jealous and petty and vengeful forever,” we’re told early on, as the Olympian deities are reimagined as uber-rich, self-fixated celebrities, all suntan lotion and gold-coloured bikinis as they sip their drinks on the beach, moan that “no one understands how hard it is to be us”, and gleefully interfere with the affairs of mortal men. Emmanuella Coles is so stunning as Zeus’s often betrayed (and invariably furious) wife Hera that Richard Conlon’s capricious man-child Father of the Gods comes across as little more than comedy relief. Yet this appears quite deliberate: Hannan deftly balances an expected emphasis on the dehumanising brutality of combat – excellently choreographed by Raymond Short, with blood literally flung across the participants by other cast members – with a clear expression of how women, regardless of their position, become little more than collateral damage in times of war.
We’re also told, at the start of the second half, that “this isn’t about the Trojan Horse”; while robbed of a gratuitous spectacle arguably impossible to fit on the stage, this also means Hannan can end his near three-hour retelling of the Iliad before the all-too-bloody destruction of Troy and its inhabitants. Importantly, this shifts the emphasis onto an event that surprises even Hera; when the Trojan King Priam – undoubtedly Ron Donachie best moment on stage – turns his unimaginable grief and anger at Greek warrior Achilles (who has killed 16 of his sons) – into a genuine desire for peace and an end to the violence.
There is much to enjoy about this production; Simon Wilkinson’s lighting design sets time and mood through brilliant use of colour, while Claire McKenzie’s vocal score – performed by the cast – is dramatically impactful. In terms of the rest of the cast, Ben Turner is a suitably testy Achilles (even if it seems a shame Hannan opts to ignore the homosexual overtones of Achilles’s relationship with Patroclus), while Benjamin Dilloway gives a real sense of nobility to Achilles’s opposite number, the ultimately doomed Hector. Yet, while the rest of the cast are at least adequate in their roles, there’s little sense of an effective ensemble pulling in one direction; this early in the run at least, it’s like watching a football team that’s unbalanced by several star players and only starts scoring goals during the second half.