Review: An Iliad

20:34, Mar 12 2014
denis o'hare
RETELLING: American actor Denis O'Hare brings Homer to life in An Iliad. "He just keeps showing up throughout history where people need to hear him."

An Iliad, Homer's Coat

The Opera House, until March 14

Like the Ancient Mariner, the Poet who tells the story of the Trojan War is driven to tell it but, unlike the Mariner, he finds no solace or forgiveness for the sins of man. "Every time I sing this song", he says, "I hope it's the last time."

But we know all too well from just the first 14 years of this century, as well as the litany of wars from ancient Troy to modern Afghanistan, that when the Poet recites towards the end of An Iliad it wont be the last time he tells it.

The Trojan War is then all wars with its horrors, bravery, and slaughter of young men. It is told by the Poet who wanders on to the vast stage wearing an overcoat, rough clothing and a hat.

He sits at a table, has a drink and starts the long story.

The story of Helen, Paris, Patroclus and the rest are sketched in with quick, clear portraits effortlessly established by his fluid movements and supple voice. The climax is the great fight between Achilles and Hector, which is thrillingly performed, though it left me unmoved.

Denis O'Hare is supported by some of the most dynamic, perfectly timed lighting effects I have seen in a long while. But Brian Ellingsen on the double bass is sheer magic as he underscores the narration with slashing sounds of weapons and sword on sword that chill the blood.

Denis O'Hare in full voice (aided with an echo at one point) is extraordinarily powerful, but his normal voice is a bit too quiet for the Opera House.

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