Pros: Both opera buff and novice will marvel at this masterpiece: a vast and sweeping narrative realised with the passion and momentum it deserves.
Cons: An undeveloped character along with some pantomime styling let the otherwise accomplished side of actors down.
With sincere grandiose Gods and Monsters Theatre deliver this epic tale with the oomph and clarity that can so easily go amiss in such a gargantuan undertaking. They take Wagner’s mythical and fantastical The Ring Cycle, and transform it into an adventure rich in humour, pathos and passion that transfixes its audience. It is a story that frolics, fornicates and festers as it tells the consequences of an evolving humanity and their demands upon the Norse gods: gods who are unable to manage both themselves and their realms. This is a story of dying deities.
I have a special love for the 1000 seat amphitheatre, The Scoop, because you can see wonderfully wherever you sit, cuddle up with loved ones, BYOB and have a picnic underneath the moon. Another lovely facet of The Scoop is the freedom it affords to watch the other spectators in addition to the stage! In the past I have wandered out of performances as they’ve failed to make the best of this unique space, but not so with The Ring Cycle.
The set is simple; yet with a few well-chosen and cleverly scaled props the powerful vastness of a panorama quickly skips to the scale of two lovers and the small, intense world their hearts create. Rotating benches, and crumpled cloths add dynamism and focus with the equal impact of a Hollywood special effects department; so though simple in its delivery, the thinking behind this set from Sara Perks is both imaginative and clever. The costumes are rich and evocative, aiding a small cast to embody pantheons and peasants with equal ease.
Costumes do not achieve the fiction alone; the actors themselves are impressive for their ability to present each character with depth despite having seldom little time to do so as the action sweeps the show onwards. The skill with which they unfolded their emotions stood out. For example Christopher Hines, as the giant’s brother, was first beset with infatuation, love then loneliness; and finally he fermented into anger.
The character of Loki however felt unfinished. There were several asides and bits of commentary that led us to believe that he would later be involved in some cunning plot or momentous undertaking, but this never occurred. The full-bodied zest of the other characters wasn’t matched here, and the result was a hollow villainy of pantomime styling, not helped by Loki’s wig; which though menacing in moonlight, looked naff in daylight.
The show was divided into four parts, and this chaptering made it more accessible, and likely prevented the disruption of visitors leaving mid action: a 4.5 hour sitting can be unappealing to some, and the nature of a free outdoor performance allows people to come and go as they please, so abandonment is a potential risk. Fortunately the structure allowed for a digestible story that in other circumstances could easily have overwhelmed the viewer with its complexity. Set against the lighting of The Shard, Tower Bridge and the other looming buildings that surround The Scoop, the two-day chapters at twilight, and two nighttime chapters, were washed in the colours of the capital.
Go see this gigantic, hearty, and epic tale. Take a picnic, a bottle of wine, a cushion and your most reluctant friends and have an evening that in years to come will stand out as an outstanding memory from 2014.
Director: Racky Plews and Phil Willmott
Composer: Richard Wagner
Adapted by: Lisa Kuma and Phil Willmott
Producer: Suzanna Rosenthal
Booking Until: 31 August 2014
Booking Link: Free! Just Turn Up. http://godsandmonsterstheatre.com/2014-the-ring-cycle-plays.html