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Unmythable – mac, Birmingham

Writers: Richard Darbourne, Troels Hagen Findsen, Paul O’Mahony and Mike Tweddle

Director: Mike Tweddle

Reviewer: Selwyn Knight

[rating:5]

Unmythable takes the audience on a whistle stop, hugely entertaining, tour of Greek mythology. After being offered olives on our way in to the auditorium, the three man cast introduce us to our quest – yes, our quest, since we are all heroes and colleagues of Jason on the Argo. In the company of Jason and battle weary crew members Beta and Gamma (and, occasionally, Delta), we travel to Colchis and, on the way, see stories re-enacted, including Prometheus stealing fire from the gods, Persephone being “shared” between the land of the living and the underworld and thus, inadvertently, causing the seasons, the Trojan horse, the legend of King Midas …. the list goes on.

However, this is no tedious and worthy enactment. Temple Theatre, an international theatre group based in Birmingham, is dedicated to “making old stories fresh” and in this they are conspicuously successful. Their first outing, in 2007, was Out of Chaos, followed in 2009 by Hippolytus. Now, they bring us Unmythable, a fast moving, energetic and totally enjoyable production. The stage is empty other than three small boxes, which are used, in concert with Mick Diver’s excellent lighting scheme, to represent all of the locations. The cast move them around stage between scenes effortlessly, and jump on and off sure-footedly. Claire Brown’s costume design is minimal, and imaginative – to become the Sun God, for example, Troels Hagen Findsen is brightly lit and pulls broad yellow ribbons out of his trouser pockets holding them aloft. However, the tour de force must be the story of how Persephone is sent to the Underworld to marry Hades, her uncle. Paul O’Mahoney doubles up as Persephone /Demeter (her mother) with Findsen’s brothers Hades/Zeus. With minimal changes of accessory and energetic leaping up and down from the stage blocks, the story is told briskly, with great humour and, most importantly, really clearly. Even though characters switch frequently and instantaneously, there is never any confusion, such is the quality of their performances. Findsen’s later portrayal of King Aeetes of Colchis after Marlon Brando’s Godfather is also inspired as he sets Jason a variety of dangerous tasks to perform. In these, O’Mahoney’s Jason is assisted by Aeetes’ daughter, Medea, memorably played coquettishly in blonde wig by Will Pinchin, a large man bearing more than a passing resemblance to Disney’s Hercules. Funny songs from Robert Castell abound, all of which help to carry the story along. My knowledge of Greek mythology was pretty sketchy, but this production has served to fill it out considerably.

Technically, too, this production is flawless: sound cues are hit precisely and there are no awkward pauses. As a result, all in the audience, including the youngest, are kept on the edge of their seats throughout. It is a pity that more seats weren’t filled on the evening I attended.

This production transfers to the Edinburgh Fringe, playing at Zoo Venues. If you get the chance, get to a show!

Runs until: 25 July 2012

Picture: Graeme Braidwood

 

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