Writer: Ewan Downie
Directors: Ewan Downie and Ian Spink
Reviewer: Torran McEwan
Ewan Downie steps onto the edge of a dimly lit stage and surveys his surroundings. He takes a breath, and suddenly we’re plunged into the ninth year of the Trojan war. In the army encampment outside the city Achilles wakes entwined with his best friend Patroclus, ready for another day of refusing to fight. Behind the city walls, Trojans say farewell to loved ones and prepare for a final battle. Neither side could predict the carnage that ensues.
Downie’s narration of the story of Patroclus’s death and Achilles grief is breathtaking. We’re immersed in every aspect of the story, from the feel of the beach grass under the tents to the crush of soldiers hiding underwater from Achilles’ wrath. It’s startling at times to remember that we’re not in the midst of battle but simply sat in a theatre watching one man describe it to us.
What really breathes life into Company of Wolves’ new production of an ancient myth is not just the rich and evocative narration, but the production’s unfailing commitment to reminding us of the humanity of the story. When Achilles first begins his bloodbath the names of the soldiers he kills are said aloud, giving us the chance to grieve every loss. There are no heroes in this story, only victims.
The production is firmly rooted in its mythical origins and does not shy away from fantastical aspects, such as Achilles mother being a goddess. Nevertheless, this still feels relevant to modern battles. Downie wears olive green, reminiscent of camouflage. It’s explained to us that Achilles left home to fight age 15, only a child. This could well be the story of a teenager who joined Isis.
The play ends with a musical lament. Having just been reminded that this war has lasted nine years, this lament seems to not just be for the dead, but for the living who have lost nine long years to a war for a forgotten cause, with no end in sight.
Runs until 27 January 2018 | Contributed