Anti-war playmemorable

Barbara Frame
Barbara Frame
The set has a derelict look, like a place where something used to happen but no longer does: a workshop, perhaps, or a studio. 

The Poet shambles in. He has a story to tell, possibly the only story he knows, and he’s been telling it for centuries. He loves it passionately but it also exhausts and terrifies him. After a creaking, hesitant start, the story begins. 

It comes, of course, from Homer. Its language ranges from informal to poetic, and scraps of Homer’s text, in both Greek and Robert Fagles’ English translation, find their way in. The focus is on the destructive, unprincipled rage that leads to the clash between the Greeks and the Trojans, and the fight with Achilles that leads to Hector’s death.

This stage adaptation is overtly anti-war, more so than Homer’s original, and writers Lisa Peterson and Denis OHare build up a compelling case, strengthened by a sober and chilling recital of the names of over 100 wars, many of which occurred during the audience’s lifetime, against its pointless hideousness.

"Every time I sing this song," says the poet, "I hope it’s the last time." 

He, and the audience, know it won’t be. Michael Hurst’s performance amazes, combining the weariness of a traveller who has been everywhere and seen too much with the enthusiasm of an inspired teacher. After 15 minutes he is joined by musician Shayne P. Carter, whose original score accompanies the rest of the performance.

The music occasionally called attention to itself but mostly supported the narration, heightening moods without dominating. Director Jonathan Hendry is to be congratulated for this stunning, memorable production.  Everything — narration, music, script, set design by Shannon van Rooijen, lighting design by Stephen Kilroy, sound engineering by Lindsay Gordon — combines superbly. Saturday night’s audience was transfixed for every one of the 90-plus minutes. Recommended.

 

An Iliad

Fortune Theatre, Dunedin, Saturday, April 7

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