White Bear Theatre
Reviewed – 12th October 2017
“combines some excellent dramatic performances with some interesting physical theatre”
Written by Piers Beckley and directed by Ray Shell, this was a brave attempt to retell the story of Gilgamesh, the Sumerian demigod of superhuman strength who built the citadel of Uruk to defend his people. The original story is found in the Epic of Gilgamesh, a poem which is cited as the first great work of western literature and is thought to have been written between 2150 and 1400 BC.
This production combined some excellent dramatic performances with some interesting physical theatre. However these were joined by some points of a less impressive nature. The character of Enkidu, the wild man sent to humble Gilgamesh, stood out as one of the better elements. Played by Toby Wynn-Davies his convincing performance gave weight to the production as a whole. This, together with a solid performance by Luke Trebilcock as Gilgamesh, provided the show with two strong central characters.
The sex scene between Shamat, played by the Countess Alex Zapak, and Enkidu was somewhat spoilt by unnecessary post-coital singing. In contrast, Enkidu’s rejection by the natural world after he had become ‘civilised’ was both thought provoking and performed with true feeling. The developing relationship between Gilgamesh and Enkidu is also sympathetically and subtly portrayed as is Gilgamesh’s grief when Enkidu dies.
Some of the aspects of physical theatre were well executed. Scenes which stood out were the forest with its clever sound effects, the use of twigs in the portrayal of scorpions and the ark during the flood scene. Occasional live music added atmosphere and more texture to the piece.
This quest for eternal life portrayed most elements of a true saga – the perilous journey, fighting the mythical beast and the crossing of the uncrossable river but the message we were left with at the end was unclear. Gilgamesh did not return to Uruk triumphant, so was the message that eternal life is, after all, unattainable? Was it that knowledge is the source of evil and unhappiness and turns us against nature, or was the message finally that the love between two men is a powerful force?
Reviewed by Holly Barnard
is at The White Bear Theatre until 21st October