By Mary Zimmerman. Red Line Productions, in association with Apocalypse Theatre Company and Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras. Old Fitz Theatre. Feb 8 - Mar 10, 2018

Ovid compiled his famous collection of Greek legends two millennia ago, which Mary Zimmerman adapted for the American stage two decades ago.  True to the fashion of the 1990’s, she centred her theatre ofMetamorphoses around a pool of water.

Director Dino Dimitriadis and his often naked cast take a further leap with this strikingly queered version of Zimmerman’s play.  From the shadows around a milky pool, hanging from scaffolding, the actors tell us in chorus these ten vignettes, while gods and fallible humans play out their roles in and around the water.

Almost all are truly tales of metamorphoses, of characters disguised or transformed in some way, whether into stone, gold, plants or other people or gods.  So across these shifting forms, it’s an easy leap to have genders swapped and Ovid’s heterosexual stories queered (much as we now celebrate racially blind casting of Western classics).

King Midas is a bare breasted woman who wins the power of alchemy but grieves when his daughter, here girly male, is also frozen into gold.  The drowned King Ceyz is mourned by his wife/boyfriend but then the two handsome lads are well united as seabirds.   And, splashing in the pool, two girls endlessly repeat that profound moment when Orpheus fatefully looks back at Eurydice.

Some stories are mashed by under-developed voices in the cast, especially when shouted at us line by line by different actors. But the imagery through Jonathan Hindmarsh’s scaffolding, spot lit by Benjamin Brockman, is often compelling and the characterisations reach from real and tender to witty and camp.

And so the queeny king who chops trees sacred to Ceres is starved to death.  And the (male) daughter cursed by Aphrodite with lust for her father, beds him, while he’s blindfolded, in a naked homosexual coupling. 

The nakedness is sexy and yet unsensational, more an exposure of humanity, especially with the uplifting climax when the cast line up to wish that our loving may outlast our deaths. 

The ensemble is Claudette Clarke, Deborah Galanos, Jonny Hawkins, David Helman, Sam Marques, Bardiya McKinnon, Diana Popovska, Hannah Raven, Sebastian Jamal Robinson and Zoe Terakes.  They deliver inventive, shape-shifting, moving theatre.

Martin Portus

Photographer: Robert Catto

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