Saturday, 9 August 2014

The Bermondsey Review: The Ring Cycle Plays - A Tale of Gods and Monsters at The Scoop, More London, SE1

Romance, hatred, power struggles and war: perhaps your typical weekday happenings at Boris Johnson’s City Hall or the beloved Southwark Council towers.  But, add a touch of torture, incest, slavery, divinity and magic, and the night is taken to a deliciously darker level: the award-winning theatre company God and Monsters manage to do just this.

City Hall, More London, SE1
Following last summer’s successful run of Oedipus and Antigone at The Scoop, Bermondsey’s sunken amphitheatre, the resident company presents the Ring Cycle plays, adapted skilfully by Phil Willmott and Lis Kuma from Richard Wagner’s celebrated 1874 opera libretto.  The story of a gold ring, which brings its wearer power and wealth, and the ensuing struggle over its ownership, is told over four separate plays.  With each lasting around 45 minutes, and generous intervals between each one, they can be viewed in one sitting or over a series of evenings - for free!
Image © The Scoop More London
Wotan, king of the gods, is in a bind: pay the giants for building his new fortress Valhalla, or risk his sister-in-law Freia being taken captive, and with her the magic apples that prevent the gods from ageing.  Phil Willmott plays a desperate and degenerate Wotan, obsessed by matters of state and the perceptions of the mortals on earth.  Consumed by a desire to hang on to power at all costs, he will say or do anything.  Faced with the realisation that mortals ‘no longer respect gods’ and that the ‘old ways are dying’, his goddess wife Frika, a Viking spin-doctor with morals played captivatingly by Claire Jeater, persuades him to ‘uphold the sanctity and institution of marriage’, with unexpectedly chilling consequences.
Ominous clouds loom over the Viking gods at the Scoop, More London

Set against the physical backdrop of London’s home of government on one side, and today’s widely held distrust of politicians and all things political on the other, the plays force us to look at our own moral codes as well as those of our once respected leaders.
Mime, Alberich's brother, played touchingly by Terence Frisch
© 2014 Huskyfan @Swim1965 (Twitter)

That said, superb direction by Phil Willmott and Racky Plews manages to inject sufficient humour and yes, comedy, to lighten this three hour plus long production.  Furthermore, the acting is well-served by subtly effective incidental music, and visually delectable costume and set design.
© 2014 @SarahD1289 (Twitter)
In the end, the curse of the ring exposes the goodies and baddies in the heavens.  Perhaps the real question is: is it only politicians that are good or evil here on earth?

More information:
The Ring Cycle Plays: A Tale of Gods and Monsters run from 6th - 31st August, every Wednesday to Sunday starting at 6pm

*NOTE: Part 2 contains some adult themes.  Parts 3 and 4 are not suitable for young children.

Gods and Monsters Theatre
The Scoop, More London Festival



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