Adelaide Festival: An Iliad

Denis OHare Photo:  Joan Marcus
Denis OHare
Photo: Joan Marcus

The great epic poem An Iliad has been re-told many times throughout the centuries. Actor, Denis O’Hare and Director Lisa Peterson decided (not long after the USA invaded Iraq) that a current re-telling had its place, now. They were right; it does – told as superbly as it is in this excellent production.

Homer’s Coat begins their An Iliad with a poet in his travelling rags; in relaxed narrative mode one moment and worked-up and pacing the next – as the story-telling drives him forward. Local references initially (with a list of Australian places soldiers have come from) and a warm direct address invites us in and has us fully with O’Hare, immediately.

Set in The Playhouse cavern and backed by a jumble of lights and tech stuff, (mid-way through a bump in, it seemed) with a table and chair and bottle to drink from, this innovative take dines out splendidly on the sheer enormity of ancient (and modern) war; and hits home it’s never ending occurrence throughout history.

[pull_left]As the Adelaide Festival program says – a breathtaking tour-de-force that begs the question: Has anything really changed since the Trojan War?[/pull_left]

There is no attempt to drag us entirely into the Trojan War; and if you don’t know much about it, it doesn’t really matter. With O’Hare’s spell-binding performance and account, wonderful direction by Peterson, striking lighting design and accompanying stunning music and sound-scape by bassist, Brian Ellington (a brilliant show almost unto itself) this unique version is so interesting that you’ll access and drink in the tale, utterly.

O’Hare is a brilliant actor. He has us stray wildly all over the place with him. We are in the present in the theatre in Adelaide, we are back in Troy as the war brews and then explodes and we are sometimes just having a chat with him re: what it (and war) is all about.

With perfect ease O’Hara slips into being Hector, Achilles, the Gods of the time (and many more). He is a thousand fighting soldiers, leaping across the stage possessing the energy of them all. He is Helen of Troy reclining and tempting… and he is the quietly defeated mourning father begging for the return of his son’s body. O’Hara is observer, commentator and narrator: jolting, shocking, moving, calming and terrifying us; not allowing the momentum of this legend to wane, ever. But in spectacular contrast, he is also a laid back guy having a drink, cracking a joke and making light of this classic journey as he sometimes deserts the era of Troy and falls into an almost New York bar (or Aussie pub) type conversation with us.

As the Adelaide Festival program says – a breathtaking tour-de-force that begs the question: Has anything really changed since the Trojan War? And to make this idea stick – towards the end of the 100 minutes, O’Hara (in a single slowly diminishing down spot-light) lists the many wars to have come and gone in history, finishing with the current ones raging away as we all watch this incredible show. Point made – perfectly.

Stephen House

Stephen is a writer with numerous plays, exhibitions and short films produced. He has been commissioned often and directs and performs his work. He has won two AWGIE Awards from The Australian Writers Guild and an Adelaide Fringe Award (as well as more), and has received several international literature residencies. Stephen has been Artistic Director of many events. He has been performing his acclaimed solo show, “Appalling Behaviour” nationally from 2010 – 2014 (100 shows to date). Stephen has 2 new works in development.

Stephen House

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