Icarus has fallen, and Minos has her dead to rights in an open-shut court case, but perhaps another story might be found. An interesting premise, an interesting story and some glimpses of an interesting piece, but eventually the storytelling, writing and dramaturgy let this show fall flat.
I wanted this show to be good. It is a fresh, roughly told rethinking of a Greek myth, with a feminist take told in a clown-esque style. On paper, this ticks a lot of boxes for me, but it never quite worked.
The play opens with Icarus soaring beautifully through the skies, but she falls. And as is the way in Ancient Greece, Icarus’ fate is being decided, will it be the burning fires of Tartarus, the wasteland of Asphodel, or the heavenly Isles of Elysium? The problem is that Icarus is having her story told for her, and it’s not true. Icarus despairs but somehow finds resilience and battles Minos to tell their story truthfully. Thus launches the body of the play, Icarus sails through Ancient Greece telling us their story. We meet Theseus, the not-so-honourable hero of Athens, who deceives and betrays women’s trust for his own gain. The story is an interesting take on household Greek myths, and that holds intrigue, but unfortunately is let down by the way this piece plays out.
The writing has its moments but would benefit from a lighter hand, dexterity and subtlety. Perhaps less exposition, didacticism and ‘this is the point’ moments would have allowed a more complex and nuanced resolution of events. If you tell an audience in a very literal way what the answer to the story is, they may understand it, but little can be said for how felt that resolution is. Had the writing left so much as an inch of space for the audience to contemplate the meaning of the play, it would have resonated much deeper.
The performances are varied. Libby Boyd is engaging, initially as the sympathetic Icarus, before transforming into the sleazy and amusingly overly charismatic Theseus, she shows comedic timing and plays entertainingly with the audience. Charlotte Boyle has presence and enticing glimpses of comedy as the play progresses. Finally, is the over-enthusiastic Ruby Blue Tansey-Thomas who spends large parts of the play as the cardboard-esque Minos. Their performance is messy, lacks composure and constantly tries to steal the scene from the other more interesting performances. This might read as the character, but Tansey-Thomas clutches so desperately at the straws of comedy that the audience is often left cringing as jokes fail like Icarus’ wings.
Again, I wanted to like this show. The feminist intent of this play holds weight, and the narrative warns us against the single narrative of patriarchal history. However, the didactic nature of the storytelling, underwhelming comedy and haphazard performances made for an experience that did not resonate or send me home with much to think about, other than a frustration that the interesting premise had been let down.
Review by Tom Carter
Icarus, Ariadne and Phaedra are in hell. Literally. Now they’re uniting to smash the patriarchy for a second shot at life and asking why, two thousand years later, the same questions are being asked of them.
In a retelling of three intertwined Greek myths, Icarus (now a young woman) has fallen from the sky to her death. In a trial to determine where she’ll spend eternity, Icarus is forced to examine the events which led to her flight and defend her choices. But how can she give her defence when history, the justice system and language itself is not designed for women?
Playful, provocative and poetic at times, The Dissent fuses mythology with prose and parody to explore injustice, the language of the patriarchy and the role it plays in gender-based violence.
Cast & Creative Team
Phaedra/Minos: Ruby Blue Tansey-Thomas
Icarus/Theseus: Libby Boyd
Ariadne/Daedalus: Charlotte Boyle