Prometheus BoundPrometheus Bound is a classic piece of theatre, part of a trilogy of plays written by Aeschylus about the eponymous Titan, Prometheus. Considering it would have been performed 2,500 years ago in huge outdoor amphitheatres, director Cieranne Kennedy-Bell has given herself a Herculean task in producing this for a modern audience in an intimate pub theatre. Just as the Titanomachy was not won by brute force, making Prometheus a success would require an abundance of guile.

Prometheus Bound is a translation of an ancient Greek text, and it certainly sounds like one. This play has a cast of Titans, Olympian gods and ocean nymphs; the only mortal who takes part in the proceedings has been transformed into a cow by Zeus and is cursed to wander the world without knowing peace.

If you have a Classics degree this will not phase you, but this is dense material if you are approaching it for the first time. Personally I am a big fan of Greek mythology and leapt at the chance to see them in action. Another difficulty with staging the story of Prometheus is that he is chained to a rock as his punishment for stealing fire from the gods to give to man: so the main character is not in a position to take part in a lot of action.

The play therefore consists of characters visiting Prometheus, and together they share stories of how they reached this point and what will happen next. This will seem familiar to any Shakespeare fan – it is a complete reversal of the ‘show-don’t-tell’ rule. These stories are so compelling that they have survived millennia by no accident. This puts the individual storyteller under pressure to deliver their soaring monologues of misfortune, and Christie Banks as Io did an excellent job of telling her sad tale. She is sentenced to years of suffering through no fault of her own, but through the cruel whim of jealous gods. Her narration of the story is executed expertly, but I was continually distracted by her floppy cow ears. When it comes to Midsummer Night’s Dream, the more ridiculous the animal mask worn by Bottom, the better: it just makes him look even more the ass. Yet that approach doesn’t suit the serious drama here. Subtle brown rags are wrapped around Io’s hands to represent her hooves, and that would be enough to complete her costume.

This is a symptom of the underlying problem between what the play is and what it is trying to be. The show should have confidence that it will hold the audience’s attention without having to do something every few seconds. The performance of Henry Regan as Prometheus suffered from this. The spitting, snarling and lip curling detracted from his acting, dragging it down to caricature. The urge to do that must be enormous when your entire body is restrained, but it is best to use it sparingly.

The show is guilty of overcompensating for its lack of action and traditional three-act structure. It struggles against itself with all the futility of Prometheus against the mountain. It is full of tricks to keep the audience interested, but the abundance of them alienated me from the characters – perhaps that was the intention.

I could not discern a clear idea being presented here. A Titan with knowledge of the future stole fire, knew he would be punished, knows he will one day be freed and will at last see his captor thrown down: not because it is just, but because it has to happen. So until then he must simply wait and speak to weary travellers – just don’t ask him for directions, as you won’t be able to follow them…

Prometheus Bound is playing at The White Bear Theatre until 2 June. For more information and tickets please see the White Bear Theatre website.