views from the gods

saints and sinners of the stage and screen

The Hideout
The Bread & Roses Theatre
19th July 2015

★★★☆☆

Publicity image for The Hideout

Photography provided by Haste Theatre

I always expect every good pub to have a theatre on top. (Or downstairs or beside, I'm not really fussy - but definitely a theatre.) What I don't expect is an illicit den run by three famous Olympians, goddess of love Aphrodite (Jenny Novizky), god of wine Dionysus (Jesse Dupre) and King of the Underworld, Hades (Elly Beaman-Brinklow). I'm not complaining, I do like my Greek mythology, and an irreverent 1920s style setting is always fun. This take on Theseus and the Minotaur is however unlike any other I've come across. As we saw in Oyster Boy, Haste Theatre do like to put their own mark on things.

The script does veer away quite sharply from established myth, with some twists and turns I'm sure I never read in either Plutarch or Ovid's versions. However, the storyline changes on the mere whim of the gods, and that is very in-keeping with the immortals described by Greek legend. Aphrodite is beautiful, self-obsessed and thoroughly up for interfering in the lives of humans. Dionysus is, well, a jolly drunk. Hades has been rewritten for comic effect - here he's a simpering scaredy-cat who likes death, but would probably as happily settle for a good nap as a good killing. He's no fear-inducing, stern-faced ruler of down below, and the classics scholar in me says that's a shame, but you can understand why his character's been tweaked in this way. The different personalities bounce off each other well, and the great dynamic between this trio is never more evident than when they all assume the part of Minos at the same time. It makes for a superb piece of physical theatre.

Haste is an all-female company, and whilst Beaman-Brinklow has her faced slathered in ghostly paint and frequently contorts and gurns to hide her femininity, Theseus (Sophie Taylor) has a deliberately badly-drawn on moustache to indicate his gender. That's it. The company aren't even trying, and that in itself brings some easy laughs. Ariadne (Elena Costanzi) adds some glamour with a gorgeous period style beaded dress, competing with Aphrodite's vintage fringed kimono and silk shorts. All together this is an odd-looking bunch, but that's why it's such an entertaining affair. Intentionally ramshackle and yet carefully planned.

The production packs in a lot of techniques for what is less than an hour - traditional clowning, tap, physical theatre, live music, shadow puppetry - the sheer enthusiasm and ambition of the cast makes it difficult not to enjoy their work. They don't just ignore established mythology, they frequently ignore the fourth wall, bringing us into their secret hideaway and sharing the jokes with us. The audience are carefully manipulated into doing what the performers need them to do, but they show an aptitude for improvisation as well, with Taylor bursting back into the room with another guest she's found for the wedding (in reality, a latecomer trying to sneak into the show unseen). They're a resourceful troupe, which is really what you need when planning a jaunt up to Edinburgh, where anything can (and frequently does) happen.

The conclusion lacks the hijinks and energy of the rest of the show and feels a little abrupt. On one level that does work - as the gods point out, we got what they promised - but it's hard to not feel a great piece of storytelling has just been cut short. It's a devised piece, and it feels like perhaps the company suddenly ran out of inspiration - where are the Muses when you need them, eh? With that said, The Hideout is irreverent, interactive and intelligent and should therefore find a captive audience at Edinburgh - no need for Theseus to pop out and hunt one down.

The Hideout opened on 19th July and runs until 20th July at The Bread & Roses Theatre. It will run from 23rd to 24th July at the Birmingham Festival, 28th to 29th July at the Manchester Fringe, then from 5th to 31st August 2015 at C Nova, as part of the Edinburgh Fringe.

Clapham High Street (Overground)



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