Bakehouse Theatre
Until 24 Feb 2018

Review by Thomas Filsell

“Euripides’ Alcestis” is a completely re-worked and modernised interpretation of the City Dionysia second place prize winning Athenian tragedy of the same name by the eponymous playwright. In this pared-down version, edited to come in at under an hour, Admetus, King of Thessaly, has been allowed by The Fates to live on past the scheduled date of his death. At the beginning of the play Death (Thanatos) comes to claim Admetus, but Apollo, who has been exiled from Olympus and residing in Thessaly, intervenes, persuading Death to take a substitute so the Thessalian King may live on. Alcestis, Admetus’ queen, sacrifices herself for him and is taken by Thanatos into Hades. This sets the stage for Heracles to embark upon one of his fantastic adventures – to enter Hades and return Alcestis to her husband and his old friend Admetus, back on earth.

“Euripides’ Alcestis” is a high-school production, and it shows. The young actors are well-rehearsed and perform their parts adequately, but this is not a professional show. The humour is juvenile and forced. Some of the performers had natural comedic talent enough to compensate for the lack of sophistication; Cooper Thomas as Heracles was funny at times, Brodey Ward as a very camp Apollo had his moments, Old King Felix Smith (who bore a striking resemblance to American comedic actor Adam Goldberg) made me laugh and played a mean piano, but the script was essentially frivolous and most of the actors tried to force laughter where it was neither warranted nor earned.

The space was very small. The actors were right on top of us from the moment we entered, which might be exciting under different circumstances, but here it only served to exacerbate the nerves and awkwardness of the young actors.

The singers were great. Acting as the Chorus, an integral part in most Athenian tragedies, they managed to maintain their high-quality, haunting vocal sound throughout the play. Brie Eastaway is the only singer billed in the show’s program. Well done to her and the other girl who sang solos, and further credit to Miss Eastaway for her creative costume and makeup design. The pianist, Felix Smith, also played well, offering us a number of suitably creepy and jaunty tunes to accompany the action of the play.

It is a shame that the young actors and performers in Euripides’ Alcestis were not given more freedom to play and improvise. Every moment, every movement felt like it was choreographed, and in such a way that it reminded us that this was indeed a high school production. We could not be drawn into the drama or engaged by the characters or subject matter.

Rating: 1.5 stars (out of 5)