Review: ACHILLES *****

THEATRE

ACHILLES 

Summerhall Venue 26 16.15

August 3rd to 26th Not 6, 13, 20

***** Five stars

This is a thoroughly stunning performance by Ewan Downie of Company of Wolves. He takes full control of stage and auditorium with his opening words, declaring the state of events as the Trojan war has been under way for so long, and is in its ninth year.

His voice becomes less declaratory, and, in richly modulated tones, tells us how things are in the Greek camp, and of how Achilles is sleeping with limbs entwined with his friend Patroclus, as they have both done for many years. Ewan Downie then conveys the urgency of Patroclus’ entreaties to his Achilles as the Trojans set fire to Greek ships. Achilles is reluctant, until Patroclus himself puts on Achilles’ armour and goes into battle, only to be killed by Hector. The humiliations wrought upon the body of a slain enemy are vividly described.

Ewan Downie now moves into another register, as, with athletic movement of admirable flexibility, he conveys Achilles’ enormous grief and regret. Then follows his revenge, the carnage of the resulting slaughter, and the eventual slaying of Hector. Followed by more ritual humiliation.

This is forty five minutes of blistering action as one extremely brilliant actor brings this classic chunk of drama to exuberant life. Downie owns the whole space, carving battlefields and burial pyres out of the air. He continues speaking whilst in the middle of contortions that would require the undivided attention of the great majority of actors.

This is a performance of great skill and accomplishment. There is storytelling, dance and song here, and the song sections are enough to make hairs stand on end.

The show is highly recommended as the experience of an often told story brilliantly conveyed, and as a demonstration of what acting of an extremely high standard is like to experience at close quarters. It was a privilege to be there.

Tony Challis