The Lyceum's Mark Thomson bows out in epic form, with Chris Hannan's adaptation of Homer's classic
Chris Hannan's adaptation of Homer's epic The Iliad explores the events of a few weeks in the final year of the decade-long Trojan War. Countless lives have been lost, and the warriors and citizens are sick of the relentless emotional toil. When Emmanuella Cole's splendid Hera begs 'give me rest' towards the end of the play, she echoes both the prayers of most characters and the theme of Hannan's script.
Hera, queen of the gods and the eternal frustrated wife of Zeus, serves in place of the traditional Greek chorus, guiding the spectators through the story. It's a powerful performance by Cole who brings to life Hannan's superb writing, whether she's nonchalantly drawing a cigarette out of her gold bikini or crying over the loss of her marital bliss with Zeus.
Hannan follows Homer's division of the war between divine and human realms, while lending the gods recognisably human behaviour, and using their antics to reflect on the mundane world. They drink cocktails, quarrel on sun loungers and plot like Kardashians on a reality show before they decide to intervene in the fate of similarly flawed and passionate humans. The goddess Thetis worries for the life of her son Achilles, just like Andromache worries for her husband Hector, eventually killed by Achilles. Both Thetis and Andromache are played by the excellent Melody Grove.
As the story unfolds, shrouded bodies pile up against the rust-coloured set and blood is thrown by bucket (literally) to punctuate the brutal and well choreographed fights. 'All this over a fucking apple' sighs Zeus, as Achilles slowly but surely descends into madness until he meets compassion in the person of Hector's father, Priam. Artistic director Mark Thomson achieves an intensity that respects Homer's poetry and captures the omnipresent grief and anger that pervades The Iliad, in his final production for the Lyceum.
Royal Lyceum Theatre, Edinburgh, until Sat 14 May.