EFR - Reviews of Metamorphoses

Metamorphoses

Mon 8th – Fri 12th August 2011

reviews

Ryan Sarsfield

at 09:47 on 9th Aug 2011

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It’s far from a professional production but St George’s Theatre Troupe’s production of Mary Zimmer’s adaptation of Metamorphoses is an enjoyable affair.

Particularly strong is Scott Duff’s directing. He must be applauded for his creation of atmosphere using minimal props. The creation of tempestuous waves involving the whole cast and some cleverly choreographed movement employing sheets and cloths worked really well and it was clear that the whole cast was well rehearsed in this respect.

Also notable was Evan Vihlen whose measured physicality made his Orpheus particularly strong and, despite the nervous glances, Anna Carroll Horton really took control of her roles. The troupe makes up for a minimal set with impressive costumes – with all actors playing multiple roles characterization is aided by impressive dress.

Samer Istanbouli provides a welcome source of comedy: from his drunk in the story of Midas to his Perseus (who is transported into the modern age as an over-indulged private school pupil) he never fails to prompt a laugh. Mary Zimmerman’s version of Ovid’s text is a really strong adaptation and the St George’s Drama Troupe’s decision to mix the original script with devised elements subtly added by individual cast members worked surprisingly well.

This was an opening performance and a significant proportion of the cast were visibly nervous. Whilst choreography was overall tight, there were several instances of actors stumbling with their lines. More impeding, however, was the fact that almost all members constantly broke the dramatic conceit with anxious glances to the audience, especially when off focus or in tableau.

Metamorphoses isn’t perfect but it has a likable cast and, providing nerves are kept under control, it should develop into a competent piece of drama.

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Ramin Sabi

at 13:07 on 9th Aug 2011

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A production of Ovid's mammoth latin classical epic encompassing most of the body of Greek mythology is no mean feat. This American high school theatre festival production is certainly impressive in that it manages to grasp the scale and deliver some important elements of the epic with beauty and precision. While much of the structure, writing and acting leaves much to be desired, the effort of this piece ought to be admired.

While there is no clear narrative concept to consistently explain why the various tales are being told, the continuing motif of the suitcase as a permanent prop is a clever and interesting interpretation of the epic as a continual journey through history, literature and the self. This prop is symptomatic of the best thing about this production - the aesthetic: a range of impressive and beautiful costumes and bits of fabric or props are used to create the large number of scenes that represent the big challenge for the director. It is not just the pieces of tangible objects that create the aesthetic, but the staging itself. The director has been very clever in utilising the actors bodies in unison with the set pieces to create most notably a corridor, a sea, a ship and much more.

The drama itself poses much more of a problem for this piece. There is gross incongruity between passages quoted directly from the original text translated (which can be extremely awkward as we see the school performers often don't actually understand what they are saying) and random bits of dialogue that appear to set the classical and mythological characters in a modern setting. While this would of course be a valid interpretation, the inconsistency of it makes the whole play rather odd. Most of the performances are not awful, with Joe Holley standing out as a confident Midas and Evan Vihlen standing out especially for his athletic physicality, most notably as Orpheus in possibly the best scene in the play. Regal Hewitt garners a number of laughs from the audience with his comedic and modern interpretations of a number of characters, although it is clear that comedy is being used as an escape from the serious drama some of the parts call for. First public performance nerves definitely struck quite a few members of the cast who often struggled with lines and delivery.

The didactic nature of a lot of the narration, pushing some of the outdated classical morality on a modern audience does get a bit tiring, although there is a nice justification for the whole production in one monologue that speaks of myths as public dreams.

Despite some of the flaws, most notably the woodenness of some of the acting, the power and majesty of Ovid's writing can't be sublimates and we still have moments of real emotional or narrative engagement.

Overall, the aesthetic and clever direction make these Metamorphoses an impressive school production. But it remains just that - a school production.

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