Writer Jack Fairey has taken on a huge task in adapting the substance of Homer’s Iliad into a modern story still firmly embedded in the Trojan War with a running time just short of an hour. Director Joe Malyan similarly has his work cut out staging the The Wrath Of Achilles for Bedivere Arts at Greenside, Infirmary St.
A modern and accessible version of the Iliad
Fairey’s device is to revolve the action around the three central characters. Achilles is obviously the central figure. Michael Ayiotis dominates the stage in this role with his physical presence, powerful voice and commanding performance. Opposite him is Briseis, the enslaved queen. Laura Hannawin, though turned into a concubine, is anything but submissive as she rails against the iniquities of war and her plight. Between them there is also a sense of mutual respect. Making up the ménage à trois is Patroclus, lifelong companion of Achilles and fellow combatant. Here, their intimacy clearly goes beyond just friendship, but there is a certain lack of credibility in it that derives from Jack Fairey’ portrayal of the man who, according to Homer, is supposed to be the older counsellor to whom the leader turns. It is easy to see why Patroclus would fall for Achilles but less clear what Achilles would see in someone so hesitant who behaves more like a lackey that a general.
The remaining cast of Amy Tickner, Tabitha Baines, Keir Buis and Joe Malyan make up the chorus and gods who move in and out of the action separating the various scenes. They chant a haunting score by George Jennings in Ancient Greek which was probably a lot of work for only minimal impact. The everyday language of the script makes this play a modern and accessible version of the Iliad with themes, particukarly about the treatment of women, that are passionately highlighted. What keeps it in period are the splendid costumes by Anne Thomson which would look well in a film version but are perhaps oversized for this intimate venue.
Bedivere Arts describes The Wrath Of Achilles as ‘a cinematic and powerful adaptation of Homer’s Iliad’, which rather begs the question, ‘What is it doing in a small room at the Festival Fringe?’