Once upon a Fringe there would be at least five versions of the great Anglo-Saxon poem on offer during August, but this year this production from Atomic Force Productions carries the flag or banner or whatever it is the Saxons carried. With poetry and puppetry of both shadow and bunraku varieties it tells the tale of the great warrior’s fight with Grendel and his less than happy mum.
The puppetry and the inventive use of sets are the strengths of this show. Their Grendel is a splendid creation, all spindly limbs and teeth with a dog-like snout and black soulless eyes. His mother is slightly less impressive, looking more cod than dog, perhaps mythical monster genetics are different, but you can’t help thinking a Jeremy Kyle DNA test might be in order.
The weakness here is in the poetry. This version of Beowulf is overblown and flowery and gives us a very mimsy take on the great hero. Before their fight Grendel gives a long and tedious speech on what he’s going to do the warrior – that’s right, he monologues and as we know from The Incredibles that’s never a good thing.
Beowulf has survived over a thousand years of interpretation and there’s no doubt we’ll see more versions at future Fringes, but this year’s sole take on it is ultimately a bit of a wasted opportunity.