Sunday, September 14, 2014

RAGNAROK

RAGNAROK
Eastern Angles at the Hush House
13.09.2014

To a remote site, born of the cold war, to witness the world's end. Ragnarok, the Norse Armageddon, with Giants, Dwarves and the Ancient Gods.
Eastern Angles feel some affinity with the region's early inhabitants. There were Viking re-enactors outside the Hush House for some pre-show rough stuff. Playwright Charles Way was specially commissioned to write this piece for this company and this space. 
It boldly embraces the old myths, with epic staging and poetical language, with colloquialisms and clich├ęs for added grit.
Designer Sam Wyer has taken his cue from this utilitarian building – the towers are corrugated iron, the ox on the spit an oil drum.
Light, sound, smoke, wind and flame conjure up a spectacular world, and there are countless striking stage pictures, not least the Viking funeral boat in flames, disappearing into the sinister perspective of the Hush House's tunnel. Ben Hudson's evocative soundscape, too, echoes the deafening origins of this Cold War hangar.
There are superb puppets – the Giants, Idun the orchard goddess, and Fenrir the wolf, looking a little too cute, here, perhaps.
But strong meat, this. An eye is ripped out, and eaten. Loki, the shapeshifter, is tortured. And the very visceral, ungodly family feuds link Asgard with mortal Midgard.
Director Hal Chambers deploys his cast to great effect, filling the traverse stage with confrontation, conflict and occasional comedy. Theo Ogundipe makes an impressive Thor, wielding his hammer and leaping athletically around platform and causeway. Gracy Goldman has huge presence as Freya, goddess of fertility. Oliver Hoare is a mischievous rapscallion Loki – insouciant, insolent, he has most of the puns and the wordplay. And three amazing characters from Josh Elwell: the Mason who rebuilds the walls of Asgard, Thjazi the Giant, and Hod who shoots the mistletoe arrow to kill the invincible Baldr [Tom McCall]. Odin, the all-father, is an imposing Antony Gabriel, with Fiona Puttnam his Frigga. The ethereal Idun is voiced by Sarah Thom, who also plays the Seeress, foretelling the future and peering back into the past - “Burning ice, biting flame, that's how the world began …”
There are myths within myths here, as well as a wonderful shared storytelling moment – How Thor Won Back His Hammer. And a breathtaking finale, where the future is foretold and Baldr walks out into the twenty-first century.
These Norsemen and their Gods are not dead. Their bones lie under these Suffolk skies, their names live on in our language. They must surely rejoice to see their colourful stories brought to life in this thrilling triumph of theatricality.

production photograph: Mike Kwasniak

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