Aeschylus, translated by Paul Elmer More
Directed by Cieranne Kennedy Bell
Pros: An ancient and powerful story that is rarely performed, with strong actors and an unusual and intriguing method of storytelling.
Cons: At times difficult to follow, and many aspects of the performance are overcompensation for the lack of action.
Our Verdict: Emotionally charged and engaging. This brutal tale will appeal more to those with an interest in Greek mythology, but still has a powerful connection with a modern audience.
It’s safe to say that the challenges involved in directing and performing a 2,500 year old Greek tragedy are significant. Even more so when you’re acting it out in a small pub theatre and your lead actor spends the entirety of the play immobile and in chains. However this is the challenge that theatre company Fire Under The Horizon
took on when they chose to perform Prometheus Bound
. The show itself had a few weak points and didn’t quite live up its godly name, but was nonetheless a heroic effort with some exceptionally powerful performances.
The storyline is based on the ancient myth of the Titan Prometheus, punished by Zeus for gifting fire to mankind and chained to a cliff-face for all of eternity. Throughout the play a series of characters, both sympathetic and spiteful, come to visit the unlucky protagonist. It is through their stories and interactions that we learn about the events that led to Prometheus’ imprisonment.
The stage is sparsely decorated with simple white canvas sheets ominously covered in sketches of small groups of men and soaring birds of prey that are reminiscent of cave drawings. Due to the simplicity of the design it was through the constant and effective background sound that the scene was truly created. The rush of wind and waves illuminates Prometheus’ lonely and desolate surroundings, despite the indoor stage. Later on, the sounds of thunder and lightning build up to the play’s dramatic and violent conclusion.
This version of the ancient drama was translated straight from the classical Greek text – and it sure sounds like it! If you’re a big classics fan then this show will be a gift from the Gods (no pun intended). If, however, you don’t have any great knowledge of Greek mythology then you might find yourself struggling to figure out the narrative in-between all the thee’s and thyself’s.
Luckily the raw and visceral nature of the cast’s performances mean that, even if you’re unsure about the language, there can be no doubts about what’s going on in the characters heads. Despite his limited movement (he is after all, chained to a rock) Henry Regan’s snarling and spitting Prometheus portrays all the rage, betrayal and bitterness of an imprisoned god with a captivating intensity. Perhaps even a little too intense: some moments of subtly would have actually strengthened and rounded out the whole performance.
Alongside Regan, Christie Banks produced an emotionally wrought performance as cursed maiden Io, and Chris Walters’ skin-crawlingly sinister Hermes also deserves a special mention. In fact the entire cast clearly gave it their all, but were ironically held back by the overdone force of the acting. Perhaps the director was trying to make up for the lack of action in the script, or perhaps just trying to capture the super-human nature of the characters. Whatever the reason, the effects made the characters hard to empathise with.
Despite being set in the realms of Gods, Prometheus Bound is a very human story about very human emotions. In the intimate close-up theatre space of the White Bear Theatre it makes for a compelling performance that certainly won’t leave you bored at any point.
Please feel free to leave your thoughts and opinions in the comments section below!
Prometheus Bound runs at White Bear Theatre until 2nd June 2013.