THEATRE REVIEW: METAMORPHOSES

metamorp.jpgThe current production from Queensland’s Shakespeare Ensemble starts and ends with a loud noise, the first a knock on the door from the stage and the second thunderous applause from the audience. At its best, theatre captivates with fine performances and surprises with clever use of props and stage space. Such a world has been created with Metamorphoses, ensuring that this is a production not to be missed.

Running to just over an hour, this is the first non-Shakespearean production from the Ensemble. Performed in the intimate Sue Benner Theatre, the actors are immediately engaging, working as a cohesive team to make a real connection with their audience. This is a production that is so completely absorbing, it causes you to lose a sense of everything other than what is unfolding on stage. The entire cast is mesmerising, delivering their lines with power and charging every scene with emotion and drama.

Humour and raw emotion is used effectively to bring to life four stories from Ted Hughes’ translation of Ovid’s Metamorphoses – Creation, Peleus and Thetis, Echo and Narcissus, and Tereus. These stories explore ideas of transformation and passion in all its forms, the results of which can be painful, terrifying, wonderful and even deadly. Critical to these stories is the idea that the world turns in cycles, and as it does the boundaries between reality and myth can become less clear. The four stories presented are merged seamlessly to take us on a wonderful journey which flows from start to finish.

We are witness to the beginning of the world, the splitting of the land from the sky and the sea from the land, the addition of stars in the sky and animals on the earth. We then move through the four ages of man – gold, silver, bronze and iron. It is during these ages that humankind and the earth are changed from a place of love and plentiful food, to a place of war, where people do unspeakable things to eachother and to the earth.

Heartbreaking tragedy is explored through the story of a nymph called Echo who falls hopelessly in love with Narcissus, a love that is never returned. Narcissus is eventually cursed by the Gods, a curse which ultimately leads him to fall in love with his own reflection. With Echo fading away to nothing but a whisper, Narcissus wastes away to death as he cannot tear himself away from his reflected gaze. The fourth tale of Tereus is powerful and confronting, with its tale of betrayal, lust and revenge it shows elements of humankind at its worst.

The tales of Ovid presented here deal with metamorphosis, but not just in a physical sense. They deal with metamorphosis as a universal principle for exploring ideas of nature and humanity in a world where nothing is permanent, everything changes, and life continues in a diversity of forms. For a memorable and enthralling theatre experience, be sure to see this production and be yourself transformed.

Metamorphoses is playing at Metro Arts in the Sue Benner Theatre from 8 – 25 November. (109 Edward Street, Brisbane).