Sunday, 16 August 2015

Review: The Iliad Online, Almeida/Live-stream

"You can't kill me
I can't ever die"

After three weeks away, all my initial thoughts were on a cosy night in catching up on the first two episodes of The Great British Bake-off and I couldn’t imagine anything changing my mind – how wrong could I be! When the Almeida first announced their durational performance of Homer’s Iliad, it sounded like a madcap plan, a morning ‘til night affair in association with the British Museum and featuring over 60 actors – the only thing stopping me from booking was it being the last day of my holiday!

But fortunately, the good folk of the Almeida decided to livestream the whole shebang – all 16 hours and 18,255 lines of it – so that people could dip in and out to their heart’s content as well as attending at the British Museum for free during the daytime. I switched on at about 8pm as Bertie Carvel started his section, intending just to sample its wares but sure enough, I was there until the bitter end around 1am, having been sucked into its unique brilliance and unable to miss a minute more of it.

Directed by Rupert Goold and Robert Icke, it has to rank as one of the theatrical highlights of the year, even though I missed hours thereof and was just watching on my laptop. As the baton passed from actor to actor, reciting their way through one of the keystones not just of Greek but of modern drama, it was a mesmerising experience to revel in the different performance styles and the wonderfully hypnotic storytelling courtesy of Robert Fagles’ translation.

Of the section I was able to witness, Carvel was strong but Hattie Morahan and Lia Williams were early stand-outs, their sonorous voice utterly compelling, Caroline Faber was an unexpected but unforgettable tour-de-force as striking as the divine intervention she was detailing, and closing the whole thing in understated and unparalleled style, the awesome hush of Lesley Manville and Tim Pigott-Smith’s brought the Trojan War to its heart-breaking end, their focus and restraint a salutary lesson for some who had preceded (a distractedly line-flubbing Ben Whishaw something of a disappointment here).

A series of podcasts and a making-of film are promised to arrive in the coming days and who knows if we’ll ever get a chance to see any of it again (finger crossed, for the list of people I missed is gutting), but work of this quality has to be highly commended and congratulated. 


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