In all the performing arts, is there a better company name than The Crick Crack Club? Seriously, it zings and crackles, doesn’t it? Tantalises? Having caught their sharing of The Iliad at the British Museum, dear reader, I can report they live up to their promise. The dust was definitely blown off one of civilization’s oldest tales.
The Iliad is the first of two significant works by the ancient Greek poet Homer. It tells of the siege of Troy. You know, the one with indescribably beautiful Helen and the 1,000 ships. Even if you’ve not read a word of it, its character list of heroes and gods will feel familiar. Alongside Helen, there’s Aphrodite, Achilles, Agamemnon, Paris, Eros, Hermes and Zeus, to name a few. Patroclus, Achilles’ male lover was a new one to me. The two met and fell hopelessly in love, it seems, when the latter was self-identifying as female – a plotline from the 7th Century BC worthy of Hollyoaks in 2022, surely?
Far from a soap though, The Iliad’s characters – humans, Gods, fighters and lovers – are thrown together in an, if not the, archetypal epic narrative. Passion, war, sacrifice, grief and the possibility of redemption are all writ large. Experiencing this through Crick Crack’s fresh lens, your reviewer was constantly reminded of today’s endless cycling (and recycling) of Star Wars, Lord of The Rings and Marvel stories. Homer’s fearsome soldier Signus, for example, is initially impervious to weapons. Hearing the description of his ability to shrug off blow after blow on the battlefield was easily as exciting as any of The Incredible Hulk’s smashing times, just without the expensive CGI. Signus’s eventual defeat comes through a neat twist that would have The Avengers writers high-fiving each other and asking for a raise. It all feels ridiculously contemporary.
The tale is not acted nor staged, streamed or projected but just told, simply and directly by Daniel Morden and Hugh Lupton in beautifully natural easy-to-follow language. They form a charming double act with the ease and comfort that comes from expertise and experience. We feel in safe hands from their charming and self-deprecating introduction to the end and their deserved hearty applause. This is no simple reading of the text. Our two hosts share the action as part of a living oral storytelling tradition, handing plot points and narrative strands from one to the other like the passing of a precious gift. We’re told accommodations have been made to make sure no prior knowledge of the Classics is required. The whole affair is packed full of openness, goodwill and generosity. We’re in a British Museum Lecture Hall in 2022, but we really could be around a campfire at any point in our history. The experience is universal and timeless.
As I sat in a hushed full house, I felt reassured. Despite rumours to the contrary, imagination seems to be alive and well. Phones remained in pockets. The instant personal gratification of the digital world forgotten briefly in the face of genuine shared experience. I’m aware this might sound po-faced. It’s not meant to. We are treated to plenty of wry humour alongside the thrills and spills of war. It turns out there is nothing remotely new about finding humanity’s blood, sweat and tears ridiculous. The Gods will tell you that.
The Iliad was only at The British Museum for one performance but The Crick Crack Club maintains a busy calendar of similar storytelling events throughout the year. This includes a return to the British Museum in December with Gilgamesh, another epic poem from the ancient world.
Storytellers: Daniel Morden and Hugh Lupton
Produced by: The Crick Crack Club
You can find out about future Crick Crack Club shows on their website here.