“Appease the Gods and pay homage at the earliest possible moment to this crowning achievement of the dramatic arts.”
It’s the late afternoon. Daughter 1.0 and I are standing outside Assembly Roxy waiting for our third show of the day. Neither of us have had naps and one of us didn’t like the lunch they were offered and only ate half. Our energy levels are being sustained solely by caffeine (me) and a the memory of a large chocolate cupcake (her). We’re both more tired than we care to admit and it’s odds on that one of us will go bang in the not too distant. I want the next show to be good. I need the next show to be good.
Daughter 1.0 (aged 3 going on 14) picked out our first shows, Finding Peter and Paddington Bear’s First Concert. I chose The Battle of Frogs and Mice because I’m more of a philhellene than Lord Byron dancing in a bucket of equal parts taramasalata and hummus singing The Hymn To Liberty. Frogs and Mice was the original introduction to epic poetry used by ancient parents to clear their progeny a path to The Iliad and The Odyssey. An improvised epic poem after a long day, with a tired 3 year old. Hubris. Now for Nemesis. I feel like Dedalus when he first sniffed the melting beeswax from the emptying airspace above. This could all come crashing down. Oh Dionysios hear my prayer.
3 actors and 3 musicians set out to tell the tale of the enmity that grew up between frogs and mice. Of how that enmity turned violent, and how (finally) peace was restored. Puppets, movement, visual gags, and amphorae of audience participation transform the Snug Bar at Assembly Roxy into a bubbling cauldron of noise and excitement. Director Hayley Russell orchestrates 60 minutes of genuine improvisation which maintains a graceful pace and flow while enabling the kids to really feel control and ownership over the narrative’s twists and turns.
“Dad, I thought you said this was going to be educational!” laughs a boy in the row behind confident that, once again, he has outsmarted his old man just like when Odysseus convinced Laertes to buy a puppy, “so we can name him Argos and everyone will remember that you were a brave and fierce Argonaut.”
The performances are some of the strongest I can recall at any Fringe. Individually they are strong, powerful enough to complete the heavy lifting demanded by Caspar Cech-Lucas’ bold dramaturgy. In combination both the actors and musicians generate a pulsing rhythm that never once lets up, soaring on the updrafts of the combatants’ jingoism then plunging down when it turns out that war is good for absolutely nothing.
Daughter 1.0 is dancing on stage, hurling ping-pong balls during the volley of arrows loosed by the mice against the frogs, keeping the mouse princess stuffed toy so safe and quiet that everyone forgets about the regal rodent and she isn’t included in that day’s telling of the tale.
The Gods of the ancient world had punishments both cruel and unusual for those headstrong mortals who displeased them. Why take the risk of incurring the wrath of a petulant Fringe deity? Why risk spending eternity drinking from an endless glass of G&T that contains no gin, or constantly eating artisanal honey that’s actually made by wasps? Appease the Gods and pay homage at the earliest possible moment to this crowning achievement of the dramatic arts.
Reviewer: Dan Lentell (Seen 9 August 2018)
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