Aug 4-12, 14-26 (19:15)
This auditorium has to be my favourite to date. It’s called The Assembly Roxy and it is Roxy by name and Roxy by nature. The seating was a steep slope just like you find at the grandest theatre, except that the Roxy is a fraction of the size, offering great cosiness and intimacy. As the lights darkened and the musical began, a booming voice introduced the tale of Thor and Odin in Asgard, a great city where the Norse gods abide. There is a tree there, a golden apple tree, which holds the power of their immortality. It is well protected and is the most sacred thing in the heavens of Valhalla. The Giant race who live in one of the nine realms and are perpetual enemies of Asgard know all about the golden apple of immortality.
But this is not a traditional telling of this ancient story. In the initial scene, the inhabitants of Asgard wore funny American football guards in place of what would normally be golden armour. Odin, the Asgard king (Bob Harms), wore a hilarious boxing outfit with his name written where the belt would be. There was an immediate dynamism, both obvious and subtle, between the traditional story where the comedy was understated, and full-on funny. It gladdened me to see and hear all of the story that I myself have an interest in, and I took no offence at the comedy that complimented it so well.
Thor (Harry Blake, also the author), he of the hammer and mighty strength, was depicted not as a warrior, but as being enamoured of poetry, love and flowers. The show even goes so far as to suggest that he was attracted to another man, and they share a kiss, something to outrage the traditionalists! Tradition was further subverted when we saw Thiassi (Laurie Jamieson), general of the Giant army, threaten war between the worlds, then promptly sit down to play the cello. In fact all the players moved easily between various musical instruments, making the music itself almost like a powerful entity in its own right.
In its own charming way, the final insult to fans of the myths was when instead of being a male actor, the half-Giant Loki was played by Alice Keedwell, a woman with an angelic voice. When Alice sang Loki’s lyrical blues, it was as if it were the most serious play in the world and made us forget we were watching a comedy.
This show was full to the brim of loud, brash, almost alarmingly forceful detail, including energetic battles and a troop of tap dancing trolls. The writing is top notch and the production incredibly well put together, set in front of a cosmic planetary prop that took up the entire back of the stage. The talented cast played their parts to perfection, constantly interacting with the audience and drawing us further and further into the ancient tale. Odin moved with uncanny ease between being a powerful god and adopting a more humble demeanour. And Thor, in his cheap golden jacket, was thwarted by the contrast between his warlike image and his own poetic nature.
The story is one of the oldest on the planet, the well-known Vikings had these visions of gods, Asgard, Valhalla (where they believed they could go if they lived well enough, mostly to be a good warrior) This musical could be described as playing with the whole idea. The coy understanding behind the work is something greatly to be enjoyed. In the end it was Loki who was at the heart of the plot, with the destruction of the golden apple tree of immortality movingly revealing in the final scene a special aspect of her character. This production was engaging right from the whirlwind beginning; developed to perfection, charmingly low budget, crowd teasing, crowd pleasing, spectacular amalgamation of theatre at its very best. If you don’t believe me come in and see it for yourself!