Writer and Director: Ross McGregor
The week of epic storytelling from Arrows & Traps continues with the story of Love and War. Aphrodite and Aeres, a tangled pair of lovers, ill-fated but matched in pain and idealism. It’s a superb, affecting performance from Benjamin Garrison as Aphrodite and Buck Braithwaite as Aeres, and allows Ross McGregor to dive deeply into some huge themes with vigour and with some stretches of really gorgeous writing.
This modern retelling of the Gods’ lives is much more of a personal history than the others in the series feels. The Gods of Love and War are more sex and violence here, slightly changed but retaining immense power. It’s a modern setting, but is a nearly straightforward retelling of the mythos surrounding each from their own perspectives. It’s wrapped up as two separate interview – Aphrodite in a club dressing room and Aeres in a therapist’s chair. These days, she’s a singer and bar owner and he’s her lover with a violent streak; he’s in therapy on her urging, to see what can be done to curb his worst excess. The journey they go on seems to span decades, but could be a week – all of human existence taken in a god’s stride.
In language that does at times veer into the overly-poetic and a little abstract, we’re taken through a simple story that McGregor uses to continue his series with the modern pantheon as vehicles for thoughts and reflections on universal themes. Here we have a beautifully nuanced and emotional dissection of anger, failure, love and revenge. There’s glorious redemption, and a rallying cry for better things as a conclusion from both – a sweet ending showing even gods have limits when it comes to truly getting what they need from life. Empathising with the thug Aeres as he turns himself into a weapon of vengeance, conscious of the pain he causes and regretting it, is a rich experience. In a similar vein, seeing the embodiment of Love become bitter and challenging is an interesting shock to the system. So for McGregor, and his deities, nothing is quite as it seems. And this surprise gives us a great set of interwoven monologues.
Both actors have stand-out moments. Garrison startles with a passage on the pain of childlessness and miscarriage, seen through the eyes of the Goddess of Love who feels distressingly incomplete. Braithwaite delivers wild lucidity from a contemplative Aeres, musing on the possibility of peace and poetry after a life of war.
Shot in a fiercely intimate, close style, this is a work of online theatre that shows excellence in simplicity. Tackling trans issues, and the discussion on the loss of children and PTSD is not for the faint hearted, but they’re all sympathetically done and the fine production here is an engaging reminder that ambition can really pay off at times.
Available here alongside Persephone, Orpheus, Pygmalion, and continues with Icarus