by Henrik Ibsen adapted by Ben Power literal translation by Anne-Marie Stanton-Ife and Marie Wells.

Olivier Theatre Upper Ground South Bank SE1 9PX In rep to 10 August 2011.
12.45pm 25 June, 2, 7, 12, 23, 30 July.
2pm 26 June, 24, 31 July.
7pm 22-25 June, 1, 2, 5-7, 11-13, 20-23, 29, 30 July. 1, 8-10 Aug (all August performances sold out).
Audio-described 22 July, 23 July 12.45pm (+ Touch Tour 11.15am).
Captioned 30 July12.45pm.
Runs 3hr 30min One interval.

TICKETS: 020 7452 3000.
Review: Carole Woddis 15June.

Ibsen meets Gladiator.
The battle for hearts and minds, good against evil and faith against faith has been and continues to be one of the issues of our time. And as we’ve seen, President George W Bush’s ideological crusade has unleashed its own catastrophic consequences.

Now comes this UK premiere of Ibsen’s rarely seen nine-hour epic exploring precisely a Manichean type battle between Christianity and Paganism.

Filtered down to a mere three and half hours in Ben Powers’ version, it offers a fascinating if lengthy debate through the life of the last non-Christian apostate Roman Emperor, Julian who, in 351AD rejected Christianity for a `third way’ – a kingdom of the spirit combined with devotion to the old pagan gods.

Set in a historically critical time – had Julian lived western Europe’s Judeo-Christian profile might have looked very different – Ibsen’s tortuous examination takes in not only Julian’s rejection of the Christian (Galilean) message, but refracts it through internal conflicts concerning freedom, liberty, individual choice and mysticism.

Very Ibsen in some of its preoccupations concerning Christian guilt, the project is saved primarily by Jonathan Kent’s production.

In what may be talked about for years to come, Kent, with regular designer colleague Paul Brown, exploits all the Olivier’s considerable battery of technical wizardry – revolve, flying tower and cyclorama – to create a stunning, intense operatic vision that borders on macho over-kill but seldom bores.

He commands vast crowds – the opening procession sees Nabil Shaban’s Emperor Constantius carried aloft on crimson velvet – and swirling digitally-enhanced battle sequences, with Roman soldierly moving from stylishly outfitted storm-troopers (the play was apparently a Hitler favourite) to today’s combat-kitted desert squaddies.

But at its centre remains the individual world of young idealists, led by Andrew Scott’s 3hr tour de force as Julian, tremulously ambitious in pursuit of The Truth and Power with Jamie Ballard, James McCardle and John Heffernan as the intellectual companions alienated by Julian’s obsessive, increasingly tyrannical quest.

Add Ian McDiarmid as a devilish siren-voiced mystic urging Julian on and you have all the makings of an epic that Cecil B De Mille or Steven Spielberg might have loved to have got their hands on.

Gregory: Jamie Ballard.
Agathon: James McArdle.
Peter: John Heffernan.
Emperor Constantius: Nabil Shaban.
Helena: Genevieve O’Reilly.
Julian: Andrew Scott.
Ursulus: Richard Durden.
Varro: Oliver Wilson.
Medon/Oribasius: Prasanna Puwanarajah.
Maurus: Alexander Vlahos.
Sallust: Jack Whitam.
Gallus: Laurence Spellman.
Ephesian Sailor: Tam Dean Burn.
Eutherius: Simon Coombs.
Maximus: Ian McDiarmid.
Jovian: Daniel Flynn.
Fromentius: Chris Jared.
Ammian: Simon Merrells.
Sintula: Matthew Barker.
Myrrha/Macrina: Lara Rossi.
Hilarion: Alexander Vlahos.
Publia: Carole Nimmons.
Persian Stranger: Sargon Yelda.
Pagan Cantor: Jeremy Avis.
Christian Cantor: Michael Henry.

Additional company: Isabella Baltsavia, Ioannis Charalambous, Jack Chedburn, Darren Cockrill, Gabriella Craparo, Tom Crook, anton Cross, James Davies, John Fagan, Neil
John Gibson, Yasmeen Khalaf, Max Lacome-Shaw, Andrea Laing, Adam Langstaff,
Pandora McCormick, Stephen McLeod, Oliver Matjasz, Laura Milani, Robin Owen,
Jonathan Padmore, James Powell, Gemma Rees, Stephanie Winiecki.

Director: Jonathan Kent.
Designer: Paul Brown.
Lighting: Mark Henderson.
Sound: Christopher Shutt.
Music: Jonathan Dove.
Music Associate: Alex Baranowski.
Music Director: Philip Hopkins.
Vocal Music Director: Michael Henry.
Video: Nina Dunn for Knifedge.
Movement director: Denni Sayers.
Company Voice work: Jeannette Nelson.
Fight director: Paul Benzing.

British premiere Olivier Theatre, London 15 June 2011.

2011-06-17 12:25:56

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