The co-authors of An Iliad say they first thought of doing The Iliad after the US (our) invasion of Iraq in 2003. Indeed, the themes are all still there, mainly war of conquest on a trumped-up charge (Helen of Troy was a fabrication up there with weapons of mass destruction).
Our war on Iraq was an event that also prompted a production of Euripides’ Trojan Women here a few years ago, but this is a very different show.
Denis O’Hare stars in what is a solo performance apart from the extraordinary evocative double-bass playing by Brian Ellingsen, which becomes part of the story-telling itself.
O’Hare is The Poet, a kind of modern-day channelling of Homer himself, calling on the Muses or whatever inspiration he can find to tell the story of The Trojan War, or a particular part of it that concerned the various wraths of Achilles, Agamemnon and Hector. He dashes about using every inch of the stage, speaking sometimes poetically, sometimes colloquially; his telling of Achilles’ anger was more convincing to me than Homer’s, with excellent use of back-story (which ancient Greeks, of course, would have known).
Some of the script is hilarious – he plays Helen (wasn’t I a bitch?!), sends up the heroes (and why not?), but always brings it back to the sad and savage reality of war (for example, the scene of Priam coming to Achilles to claim the body of his son Hector), and men’s egos and their all-consuming sense of honour. The performance is always engaging, even gripping.
An open stage is filled at the back and sides with lighting and other modern theatrical equipment. It’s a tiny pity more lighting or other effects weren’t used. When O’Hare stood in an Expressionistic gash of light to recite the names of wars since the time of The Iliad, the change was welcome and effective.
This Iliad is a really great show, deserving of its standing ovation. The acting by O’Hare is mesmerising, and the direction by partner and co-author Lisa Petersen very lively.
There were a few seats left on opening night. I’d recommend you get in if you can.
An Iliad, by Homer’s Coat, is playing at the Dunstan Playhouse until March 8.
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Click here for InDaily’s stories and reviews from the 2014 Adelaide Festival, including WOMADelaide and Adelaide Writers’ Week.
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