The Iliad, the Odyssey, and All of Greek Mythology in 90 Minutes or Less

Sun 5th – Sat 11th August 2012

reviews

Joel Singer

at 10:26 on 7th Aug 2012

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Purely looking at the title of this piece, I’m sure many would have the same reaction: over-ambitious. My preconceptions were that it was difficult enough to present any of the three entirely separate parts in an emotionally evocative way. Clearly, the writers (Jay Hopkins and John Hunter) had the same thought and surprisingly, the show (while ostentatiously battling with the 90 minutes timer) does not seem at all rushed. The result is an effective performance, mixing informative facts with simple and light-hearted delivery. However, the lack of variety in the comedy and heavy-handed touch means that, while the concept is good, the execution leaves much to be desired.

The play begins with an introduction of all the major gods in the style of a TV chat-show and each is given a short interview about themselves. As the play progressed, this meta-theatrical theme was continued with an American Idol-esque talent show to pick the greatest hero and even breaking down the “fourth wall” by involving an audience member as one of Zeus’ mistresses. The narratives are given with a heavy layer of satire, and rather unimaginative jokes and inane puns without much variety cause progressively more groans than laughs.

However, the aim of the show is achieved, managing to satisfy Classics nerds with humorous references to familiar stories whilst providing a useful and informative experience for those unfamiliar. Unfortunately, for this reviewer, the information presented was not new and I found myself more often than not unimpressed and even bemused by the skits. There is no subtlety to the show and everything seems to be done with a very heavy-handed touch, from the intentional melodrama to the crude or childish puns. While I can see it being an effective and easily accessible show, it seems to operate in a similar way that Wikipedia enables the understanding of the key facts of a book but should not be deemed as a true representation of the author’s skill. While it is an engaging synopsis (giving literally a chapter-by-chapter breakdown of the Illiad), and is a good starting point, there is the danger that one could leave the show feeling that they needn’t bother with actually reading the tales.

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Oliver Arnoldi

at 11:46 on 7th Aug 2012

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01.30.00 reads the iPad timer, held in the hands of Ethan Heutle: there’s a feeling in the air that the following ninety minutes are not going to hang about. In truth, the hour and a half that follows speeds by at a pace similar to that of a game show. Characters come as easily as they go, their emotions waver, their fortunes differ, but all of them contribute commendably to what is a comical dramatic guide to Greek mythology.

Following the aforementioned gameshow vibe, the play does actually begin as one, allowing Heutle (who will later play Zeus) to take centre-stage as compère, introducing Greek gods who all embody modern-day alter egos. Aphrodite (played by an alleged swimsuit model, Rachel Stefursky) is reminiscent of a high school diva, while Hermes (Tyler Smith) likes to think of himself as a premium MC. A Schwarzenegger-esque cameo of Norse god Thor is also thrown in for good measure. The deity catwalk then moves swiftly on to some of the most famous Greek myths, such as the story of Pandora and of Hades and Persephone, and at 1.01.32, 'The Iliad', followed by 'The Odyssey' begins. It is best not to spoil the details of how these epics are told, but slapstick is presented at any given opportunity, with a handful of Americanisms littered throughout that should confuse or amuse the British viewer. A round of ‘Greek Idol’ rounds off proceedings, in many ways a slightly cringeworthy and unnecessary add-on.

Although the performances are not faultless, the effect of the show is not necessarily reliant upon the dramatic sincerity of the ensemble, but rather the ability of the cast to clearly retell stories comically. In this sense, the production is a relative success. Although the jokes do not always hit the spot, sometimes falling prey to the dangers of making a pun out of every third word, or not allowing a contrast in comic delivery (consistently forceful performances meant that towards the end, the show started to wear), its novel approach to condensing such copious works is refreshing. Writers Jay Hopkins and John Hunter should be commended here for their ability to entertainingly distil the bare bones of some of the most fundamental stories of Western Civilisation. It is definitely a production suitable for the layman, and as a result should communicate on some level to everyone in the audience. And if 01.30.00 seems like too long a timer for the history of Greek mythology, then do not fear, because in this instance there were 12 minutes left on the clock.

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