PACT CENTRE: Ovid’s epic poem detailing the myths of ancient Greece and Rome leaps off the page in a flurry of orgiastic fervour, and well-timed and tempered acting.
Ovid’s epic poem detailing the myths of ancient Greece and Rome leaps off the page in a flurry of orgiastic fervour, and well-timed and tempered acting in this co-production from Apocalypse and bAKEHOUSE theatre companies.

A torrential downpour and one of the actors contracting pneumonia did not delay this production’s opening night, with its director, Dino Dimitriadis, stepping up to take on absent thespian’s acting duties on opening night.

The monolithic nature of Ovid’s poem – some 150 stories told over 12,000 lines – supports the abundance of variety in subsequent adaptations stretching back as far as Chaucer. Ostensibly, it takes as its leitmotif the idea of transformation – in a host of contexts.

US writer/director Mary Zimmerman’s version, which this production takes as its basis, includes roughly ten of these narratives, broadly coalescing around the concept of love. They are a mixture of the familiar, such as the tale of Midas the gold-fingered, and of the lovers Orpheus and Eurydice; and the more obscure, but no less engaging – like the incestuous encounter between the young Myrrha and her father Cinyras.

The result is a sexually voracious, turbulent, sometimes hilarious and generally thrilling production. The sex scenes and nudity, which feature prominently to the delight of the lechers in the audience, were handled convincingly, and with maturity. The actors involved are relatively young and it was pleasing to see the dramatic depth and range most of them possessed. The few moments of extreme conflict that appeared in the episodes were well executed with little over-acting and there was good stage understanding between the pairs of lovers.

Zimmerman’s play is usually set around a large pool of water that dominates the stage, but given the budgetary restraints of independent theatre, a smaller wooden pool was deployed in this production and was utilised well. A series of large wooden crates were arranged in rows across the stage, which the actors used for elevation to emphasise the speaking characters in each tale and these were shifted around in key moments to funnel the action.

Perhaps the only drawbacks were some of the more sentimental design and directorial decisions – such as having the black funereal dress train of a widow circumscribe the stage and envelop the other actors, but these were largely forgotten in the break-neck pace of the action.

Music was used well by the director for scene cuts as well as mood changes, and it was certainly impressive to see some of the actors playing instruments live themselves. An altogether engaging production that proves the health of local independent theatre.

Rating: 3 ½ stars out of 5

PACT Centre for Emerging Artists, Apocalypse & bAKEHOUSE Theatre Companies present
Written by Mary Zimmerman
Direction & Design: Dino Dimitriadis
Assistant Director: Tristan Carey
Performers: Jarrod Crellin, Rowan Freeman, Sophie Haylen, Richard Hilliar, Daniel Hunter, Jacqui Livingston, Danielle Maas, Alex Nicholas, Katrina Rautenberg, Katie Shearer and Tim Warden
Stage Manager & Lighting Operation: Samantha Cunningham
Lighting Design: William Ratcliff
Graphics: Jessica Lousick
Photography: Rudi Yapp

PACT Centre for Emerging Artists, Erskineville
July 4 – 21

Miro Sandev

Tuesday 10 July, 2012

About the author

Miro Sandev is a Sydney-based freelance arts and music reviewer, creative writer and journalist. In addition to reviews he has published poetry and coverage of the media industry.