Much of our knowledge of Graeco-Roman myths from antiquity stems from ‘collected tales’ such as Ovid’s Metamorphosis. Tracing the history of the world through various myths, what unites all these fables are the changes that occur have lasting consequences. Based to various degrees on the original stories, Metamorphoses at Bread and Roses Theatre is comprised of five very different plays on the subject of change – all directed by Kasia Różycki, artistic director of Off The Cliff Theatre.
Passengers Or Whatever Happened To Icarus by Daniel Julian uses the original myth purely as a jumping-off point, though its impact on the evening is not in the least diminished. Set in present day London, four actors speak to the audience about how carefree and different Icarus’ existence is from themselves. As they become more vocal about this disparity, it’s impossible not to notice their agitation as they drag Icarus’ ‘highly-esteemed’ reputation ‘down to earth’. Bold in its concept, this leftfield approach to the Icarus myth and using it to begin a discourse on existentialism (and life in general) is unexpected and novel, leaving the audience guessing what to expect for the rest of the evening.
Matching the first play with a similar intensity, the monologue Until My Tears Turn To Stone by Heloise Thual takes a sojourn into African mythology. Performed by Elizabeth Uter, it touches on Nimba, the African goddess of fertility.
The first two plays are quite serious and intense, so when Io Restored (written by Christian Simonsen) appears, it feels like a breath of fresh air. Based on the original tale of the Titan incarcarated for giving mankind the gift of fire, Prometheus (Matthew Wade) here receives an unexpected visit from a Chorus of nymphs (Helen Jessica Liggat, Ann-Sophie Marie, Velenzia Spearpoint) and Io (Meg Lake), a ‘mortal’ who was the former lover of Zeus… There are many mythical references to the original source material, but you don’t have to be versed in the Classics to enjoy this play, as there are satirical allusions to the 21st century too.
If this was my favourite ‘comedic’ play of the evening, then The Other Side by Christopher Moore was my favourite ‘dramatic’ piece – a clever reinvention of the Narcissus myth, with something to say about contemporary relationships. Brokenhearted from the end of a romance, Nick (Benedict Scarles) transfer his capacity to love from other people to himself, leaving those who genuinely care about him feeling even more estranged and isolated. However, his own reflection (Alex Dowding) has something to say on the matter. I won’t say much more, but suffice to say that what it has to say about the myopic nature of a wounded heart is explored in an entertaining and provocative way.
The evening concludes with a segment of musical theatre (The Riddle Pond by Michael Lluberes and Jared Dembowski) – something that to my knowledge only the Pensive Federation attempt to do regularly for new writing nights. Fairy tale-esque in its conceit, The Riddle Pond also has a broken-hearted male lead (Vicente Carlos Luque) who learns about the true nature of love from a woman who provides riddles (Katherine Leyva). As a link between the two characters, Ashley Rose Kaplan admirably provides support as the Chorus.
It occured to me at the time that this is so different from what’s often offered on the Fringe, except perhaps the few venues that offer opera in intimate surroundings. In any case, this particular festival of visual and physical theatre at the Bread and Roses Theatre is different and distinctive from other themed new writing nights – a rare feat in itself, given the number of scratch nights and talent that London’s blessed with. Given the numerous ideas that ‘metamorphosis’ conjures, there’s no reason why there shouldn’t be subsequent festivals based on this theme.
© Michael Davis 2017
Metamorphoses runs at Bread and Roses Theatre until 20th May 2017.