“Love sets the world on fire, turns it into chaos, and still sparks hope for a silver lining.”

Ovid’s Metamorphoses is about the creation of the world – the transformation of nature and mankind, where gods and humans alike suffer from the impact of Cupid’s arrows. This collection of myths is now innovatively adapted and directed by Peter Bramley for the Edinburgh Fringe as a new interdisciplinary show by the award-winning theatre company, Pants On Fire.

Pants On Fire’s Metamorphoses presents a kaleidoscope of love stories. The Divine is interwoven with sarcasm, original songs by Lucy Egger, puppetry, film (Sam Chapman Visuals & Johna Ash), and physical theatre. Love is the guiding thread throughout Ovid’s masterpiece, and is cleverly framed by the atmosphere of Second World War Britain. Soldiers and nurses perform as various gods and goddesses who urge, refuse and fight for or against togetherness. We witness Jupiter (Sam Ivor) cheating on Juno (Chloe Levis), who turns her rage against Lo (Amy Mallett) by transforming her into a heifer. Another flame of misdirected hatred rips out Echo’s tongue (Beth Lockhart) who is thus unable to articulate her love for Narcissus (Sam Ebenezer). Separated from the love of her life, she shares the same destiny as Narcissus, who falls in love with his own reflection.

The shared stories are neatly connected, and the cast guide the audience creatively through their despairs and desires. By performing a satire of love, Pants On Fire condenses the world into a playground for God’s love affairs. They present Ovid’s Metamorphoses as a playful and bittersweet portrayal of striving for power on the battlefields of revenge, jealousy and narcissism. Battles between the sexes are shown as caricatures without being simplistic, and are entertaining as well as cleverly precise. The hint of slapstick comedy is immediately washed away by the powerful and enchanting display of different layers of storytelling. Musical numbers are performed live by the cast of actor-musicians and provide a pause from Tiresias’ prophecy (Brandon Plummer) of our chaotic future.  

Furthermore, the skilful use of puppetry and projection opens possibilities which are resourcefully acted upon by the company. Walls are magical transformation cabinets, and projections of the one’s own reflection are used as communicational tools with Hades’ Underworld (which is masked as the London Underground). The narration (et al. Rosie Ward) at the edges of the scenes integrates Ovid’s poetry as well as an outside perspective upon the madness of love. The communication between the inner and outer staged world is just another clever tool to bridge comedy and tragedy – not least the weapon that defeats gods and men alike: love.

Ovid’s Metamorphoses is a must-see spectacle. The performance of the cast, all of whom are deeply committed, is outstanding. Their sense of connection and professionality take the audience on an entertaining but thought-provoking rollercoaster ride about the war between mankind and nature. This adaptation is an innovative transformation of Ovid’s legacy which is cinematically, musically and intellectually devised and delivered.

Ovid’s Metamorphoses is playing at Pleasance Dome until the 27th of August. For more information and tickets, see here

Photo Credit: Murdo MacLeod