Fourth Monkey Theatre Company have a reputation for working with classical content. With Natalie Katson’s script and direction, the Greek myth of the Minotaur is innovatively delivered whilst retaining an earnestly classical style.
Instantly, the space is filled with an ominous, feral soundscape (composed by Spyros Glasafakis and Evi Stergiou) that captures the myth of the Minotaur. It’s an ambitious story to stage; Queen Pasiphe (Georgina Morton) of Crete is possessed by lustful urges for a bull as a punishment from the Gods. She mates with it and gives birth to the Minotaur: a half man, half bull monster which must be hidden in a labyrinth built by the sculptor Daedalus (James Bryant) and his son Icarus (Anthony Hollis). Katson incorporates a lot of physical theatre into the production to powerful effect. In particular, Bryony Tebbutt is especially animalistic as the Minotaur Demon, and paired with Georgina Morton, Tebbutt controls Morton’s body so that these young actresses communicate the ferocity of the curse stunningly.
The whole ensemble is strong physically (echoing in their rhythms the Chorus movements of Greek theatre), and the result is an aesthetically pleasing and slick production. The sculptor Daedalus is prominent in this myth, and as his statues, the cast throw beautiful and tortured shapes. The thought that has gone into every movement would justify their being treated as a conceptual set because this is a simple production. For the set, there’s only a platform with a set of square shaped lights on the surface, designed by Eleanor Field (at times it is difficult to understand why some of these lights are different colours, but that’s only a small distraction). By combining these lights with the ordered movements of the cast, the labyrinth is created. All the actors wear simple, robe-like costumes, but each possessing an individual alteration so that the production looks altogether edgier and more eccentric than a traditional classical play. Like the actors, the costumes blend together and yet stand out.
Katson’s script intelligently adopts the tone of Greek theatre and particularly observes the conventions of the Greek chorus; the narrator (Sarah Marr) is reminiscent of the speaker for a chorus, and altogether, the ensemble seem to breathe as one. This young cast embrace the text and deliver their lines with the confidence and sophistication that respects the status of their characters not just socially, but in history. We all know the story of how Icarus flew too close to the Sun, and Hollis’ performance is as naive as Bryant’s is mature as his grieving father.
As the cast support Icarus’ fall, it becomes clear what makes this production successful. There is an obvious bond of trust between the cast members, which translates to the audience as a sense of unity. As a result of this, a cast can be challenged to act brilliantly alone, with others, through their bodies – all of which you should expect from a professional production, but is rarely delivered with the same excellence as Fourth Monkey Theatre Company. The only problem is the story itself sadly isn’t as strong as the production – altogether I’m impressed more than I’m moved. Minotaur is an engaging piece of theatre from an exemplary company. If only everything at the Fringe were this good.
**** – 4/5 stars
Minotaur plays in rep at theSpace on Niddry Street until 25 August as part of the Edinburgh Fringe festival. For more information and tickets, see the Edinburgh Fringe website.