THE LIGHTNING CHILD
by Ché Walker lyrics by Ché Walker and Arthur Darvill.
Shakespeare’s Globe 21 New Globe Walk Bankside SE1 9DT In rep to 12 October 2013.
1pm 29 Sept, 6 Oct.
2pm 12 Oct.
7.30pm 28 Sept, 5 Oct.
Runs 2hr 50min One interval.
TICKETS: 020 7401 9919.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 22 September.
Lacks the force and speed of a lightning strike.
In any close relationship, it’s been said, there’s one who loves more than the other. And the one who loves less has the greater power if things go wrong. The deeper love brings the greater vulnerability.
In theatre, we have to be the vulnerable ones. If the stage isn’t exerting its ‘magic’ over the auditorium, then the spectators’ sympathy can soon be withdrawn. And nothing is worse than looking coldly on at a play which seems excessively in love with itself.
It’s a point that can be reached differently by members of the same audience. There were those last night at Ché Walker’s new play – or amalgam of playlets – around Euripides’ ancient tragedy Bacchae who appeared enthused to the end.
And Walker has done more than merely produce another adaptation of Euripides. He adds modern instances of the same frame-shaking emotion taking-over the human mind and body that the demigod Bacchus/Dionysus brings to Thebes, where he finds himself faced with an emotion-denier king, Pentheus.
The modern stories – an astronaut leaving his family to fly to the moons, drug addicts, women sharing a home till one’s (very skilled) violin practice maddens the other – amplify the ways emotions suddenly seize someone, while on a separate tack the masculine/feminine divide is explained in chromosomological detail. With diagrams.
But what does it amount to? Footnotes to an action which becomes repetitive and hectoring (not to mention lecturing) as it proceeds. With a commentating Ladyboy Herald as Dionysus’ Joanna the Baptist, what needs to be a purposeful action gathering to an inevitable catastrophe becomes a way laden with byways, its conflict (no contest, given Dionysus’ semi-divinity) clouded and the climactic scene with the Maenads, women citizens crazed by intoxicated rites in the mountains, just seeming like another dry-ice and elaborate hair-do rock concert.
Some moments stand out; this is the first time a Globe pillar has been used to smash a violin and Pentheus’ temptation to dress as a woman becomes pointedly clear from beneath his rejection of the confusion. But they’re hardly enough, in the near three hours of Matthew Dunster’s relentless production.
Caster Semenya/Maenad: Moyo Akandé.
Maenads: Sheila Atim, Coral Messam, Sasha Frost, Lucia Tong.
Cadmus/Lester Young: Geoff Aymer.
Teiresias: Bette Bourne.
Ladyboy Herald: Jonathan Chambers.
Dionysus: Tommy Coleman.
Drax/Shepherd: Philip Cumbus.
Neil Armstrong/Shug: Harry Hepple.
Janet Armstrong/Louisa/Maenad: Jess Murphy.
Soldier: Colin Ryan.
Pentheus: Clifford Samuel.
Billie Holiday/Maenad: Cat Simmons.
Antonia/Maenad: Clemmie Sveaas.
Agave/Sports Doctor: Finty Williams.
Director: Matthew Dunster.
Designer: Paul Wills.
Composer: Arthur Darvill
Additional music/Musical Director: Tayo Akinbode.
Choreographer: Charlotte Broom.
Movement associate: Glynn MacDonald.
Voice/Dialect: Martin McKellan.
Fight director: Kevin McCurdy.
Assistant director: Samuel Wood.