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Prophesy, Blackall Studios

Devised by Baz Productions
Directed by Sarah Bedi
★★★★

Pros: An incredibly original and exciting reimagining of Greek mythology.

Cons: Sight lines are a little inconvenient and some background information would have been helpful.

Our Verdict: A truly engaging revision of classic characters by a great up-and-coming company!

Courtesy of Baz Productions

As my two favorite productions of 2012 were the Gate’s Trojan Women and Kneehigh’s Midnight’s Pumpkin, it seems Baz Production’s new work was created with tastes like mine in mind. Like the aforementioned productions, it is a radical re-imagining of a familiar story. Devised by the ensemble through improvisation and physical theatre, it offers an ingenious prologue to the famous events of the Trojan War and captures childhood moments in the lives of Paris and Helen of Troy before they became legends.

The script cleverly positions Helen and Paris as children who are struggling with the grandeur of their lives. It is clear that both are destined for greatness, partially because we know their stories but this potential is also suggested through their attitudes. Scenes include interactions with siblings and authority figures, exposing us to the characters in multiple environments. This allows us to understand how they were molded into what they later become. The play is set in modern versions of Sparta and Troy but as the cast exists very much inside a vacuum of their own privilege and internal struggles, the time and place quickly become irrelevant. The plot is simple and the play exists more as a montage of influential snapshots versus an intensely rising action. This works very well because, of course, we already know how it ends.

The entire cast is phenomenal and the brilliant choice to cast members of the opposite gender for Paris and Helen allows performers Natasha Bloomfield and Mark Weinman to showcase the wide breadth of their skills. Weinman’s portrayal allows us to look past the ideal that has been constructed around Helen of Troy and focus on the person she was. Similarly, Bloomfield’s gender lends a misleading first impression of vulnerability in the character of Paris (which she immediately smashes through with her fantastic and fearless performance). Wienman, Bloomfield and the rest of the cast take on different characters depending on whether scenes revolve around Paris or Helen (who have not yet met) and each does a great job of differentiating and performing vastly contrasting roles. The script does a great job of balancing humor and dread and although the ominous shadow of the future is never fully forgotten, there are moments of joy and silliness which a script focusing on childhood allows for.

In terms of criticism, there isn’t much to report. I did find it a little difficult to catch all of the action as the play is performed between two sections of audience and depending on which side you sit, you’ll see more of either Troy or Sparta. This didn’t have much of an effect on my experience, however, so I wouldn’t be too concerned about choice of seating. Other than that, my only niggle was that neither the script nor the program outlined a bit of a refresher course on events leading up to the action of the play. It’s never fully illuminated that Paris was prophesied to destroy Troy as a baby and was initially sentenced to death by his family and then later rescued. Much of Paris’s angst throughout the play stems from this sense of dissociation from his family and it would have been nice to have that information. I was a little confused until I remembered the hazy details from my classical studies.

With very little exception, Prophesy is an excellently executed show, with a very charming venue to boot, and I look forward to seeing more work from everyone involved!

Please feel free to leave your thoughts and opinions in the comments section below!

Prophesy runs at Blackall Studios until 2nd March 2013. 
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