Like a modern day Homer, Ewan Downie relates the myth about the rage of Achilles and his slaying of Hector. However, I doubt that Homer would have so gamely tumbled and contorted around his captive audience in a manner that suggests he’s been possessed by the Furies. Structured around three dramatic monologues, punctuated by three Greek songs and wrapped around various expressionistic dances, this is a minimalist production in an intimate setting. Downie certainly gives it his all, but the content feels unengaging.
The scene is set beautifully, with the city of Troy, its residents and the encamped Greeks outside all relayed in a clear and poetic manner. Descriptions of scraps of cloth – “possibly once blue, now bleached white” – lost on the plain add simple yet effective flourishes to the opening monologue. However, the rage of Achilles seems to destabilise the quality of the material as well as the mood, with the second monologue becoming messy, never-ending verbiage. This is not a good moment to burst into what sounds like gibberish courtesy of a rendition of a Greek liturgy, with proceedings starting to border on embarrassing.
Some narrative moments, notably how the naked and defiled bodies of both Patroclus and Hector mirror each other in death, bring a much needed depth and unity to the tale. But they are few and far between amidst narrative sections which are repetitive and slightly confusing. The songs perhaps may be better played as recordings, as this may take away the slightly risible edge they unwittingly bring. The various dance moments are fairly forgettable; only Achilles’ mimed brutal rampage is arresting enough to stick in the memory.
Overall, Downie is unquestionably a dedicated performer. It’s just a shame that the material doesn’t really stir any emotions. It was another poet who spoke about tales of sound and fury signifying nothing and that is the feeling invoked here as things fade to black.