The Iliad” should be a Greek triumph, a piece of writing representing all of humanity and beyond; a look into the heart of one of the greatest stories ever told. But, sadly, what Mark Thompson portrays seems to lack the life and diversity this tale ultimately requires. This is really a shame to say, particularly given that it is his final production for The Lyceum, and there were some truly fantastic elements in this production.
The set design for one was particularly novel, a blend between modern metal beams and ancient carved stone, showing just how universal and timeless this story can be. The lighting too was stunning, vivid reds and flames showcasing the brutality and passion of the gods and humans. Richard Conlon was the other saving grace of this production, his Zeus was refreshing, capturing the hedonistic and volatile nature of this noted god in such a way that it felt as if his mood could turn even on the audience at any given moment. The one directorial decision which I can actively commend is that of having the actors playing multiple characters on both sides of the conflict, again showing that is is the underlying humanity that drives each side, and there is truly little separating them. Ron Donachie in particular was fantastic at this, the humanity and motivations in both King Priam and Agamemnon were very clear, but they both remained distinctly different. Unfortunately, I cannot praise Mark Thompson or “The Iliad” much further. The Greek singing was beautiful at first but ultimately overused, it became less poignant and more simply functional as it was repeated, more simply music to facilitate a scene change than an effective dramatic technique. Achilles’ song to Patroclus in English was the only moment when the music was allowed to carry the meaning it held, there the relationship between the two men could be seen clearly, and it was the simplicity which gave it its power.
Furthermore, the addition of comedy was largely mishandled, although the dynamic between Zeus (Conlon) and Hera (Emmanuella Cole) greatly benefitted from it, the same cannot be said for Aphrodite (Amiera Darwish). After a very serious, and insightful address regarding the war she becomes the butt, quite literally, of a joke consisting of a bloodied arrow sticking out of her derriere; removing any sense of development whatsoever. And this feeling was one carried throughout the show. I was left very disappointed by this production, there were so many individual facets which could have made it an incredible show, but together they sadly failed to become even half that. “The Iliad” is a story of beauty and horror, but Mark Thompson only captures a fleeting glimpse of this within the production.