Review: ‘Idomeneus’ at Soulpepper

Joe Szekeres

Young Centre for the Performing Arts, 50 Tank House Lane

Toronto’s Historic Distillery District

Written by Roland Schimmelpfennig with Translation by David Tushingham

Directed by Alan Dilworth

Cast: Akosua Ano-Adem, Alana Bridgewater, Courtney Ch’ng Lancaster, Laura Condlln, Frank Cox-O’Connell, Jakob Ehman, Kyra Harper, Stuart Hughes, Diego Matamoros, Michelle Monteith

Applause to Soulpepper for its’ production of the lyrical epic ‘Idomeneus’. This is true drama akin to the early presentations of Greek theatre. These ten skilled performers work seamlessly as a choral ensemble and provide us a reason why we attend live theatre - to hear the nuances of the spoken word.

It is advisable to read as much of the programme notes or to have some contextual understanding of mythology and the story of Idomeneus; otherwise it is possible to get lost and confused in the downward spiralling events of the plot. I never studied a lot of mythology during my undergraduate years and I know I missed a great deal in understanding this tale. Most of my comments will focus on the production values.

The Story: (from the programme and some online research) King Idomeneus and his 80 ships are on their way home after the agonies of the 10-year Trojan War. Idomeneus’ wife, Meda, is having an affair, and a storm comes up. The ships begin to sink. Idomeneus makes a bargain with the gods. If he is spared, he will kill the first living thing he sees when he steps foot on his home of Crete. That first living thing he sees is his son, Idamantes. After all they’ve sacrificed to get home alive, are they to be swept away now, on the very brink of return? What will it take to survive this too?”

 Photo by Cylla von TiedemannLeft: Michelle Monteith, Centre: Stuart Hughes, Right: Jakob Ehman

Photo by Cylla von TiedemannLeft: Michelle Monteith, Centre: Stuart Hughes, Right: Jakob Ehman

The Soulpepper production - We are greeted with an austere black set upon entering the auditorium. Upstage, there is a black scrim with what appears to be a tear in the middle of it. The stage is covered in rubber shavings. Throughout the sixty-minute performance, the scrim will also be used as a projection of various images.

At the opening, we are treated to Debashis Sinha’s luscious soundscape of crashing waves which transport us to another world far away. Gillian Gallow’s monochromatic costume design of torn, dark clothes with holes, tears and rips makes us aware these ten performers are survivors haunted from the events of the Trojan War escaping to a world that is no longer home to them. Lorenzo Savoini’s stark white lighting design effectively creates bright and shadowy contrasts of characters as they deliver monologues, dialogues and conversation.

The strength of Soulpepper’s production is the fascinating ensemble work of actors who are clearly listening to each other and are aware of the movements of each other always. I hesitate to recognize certain individuals in ensemble work because these ten actors (some Soulpepper performers I recognize from previous productions) complement each other wonderfully in the many personas they assume throughout the hour-long performance.

It was a sold out opening night performance. Given the tumultuous last few months Soulpepper has endured, I recognized a few other company performers in the audience who had come out to support their colleagues and friends as they all work together to move forward from such a horrible event.  Pay this one a visit simply to marvel at skilled actors who love sharing and hearing the spoken word.

Opened: March 8, 2018.

Closes:  March 24, 2018

One hour, no intermission.

Performances continue March 9 – 24, 2018.  Visit www.soulpepper.ca for further information on ticket prices, performance times and dates.