Mything persons

METAMORPHOSES by Toni Bartlett

WARNING: UNLESS you're the dux of your Greek mythology class, don't go and see Queensland Shakespeare Ensemble's Metamorphoses with a hangover!

do go and see it. Or perhaps, see it hung-over, be absorbed and mightily entertained by the lust, unrequited love and vengeance on offer, then go back for another bash with a clean and clear matinee-brain to get your intellectual money's worth. Metamorphoses, like previous QSE outings, is smart, layered theatre  -  and the more you can bring to it, certainly, the more you'll get out of it.

That's not to say don't see it if you're a bit spare in the Greek-myth cultural-capital stakes and/or rarely sober; indeed, QSE justifiably pride themselves on vivid, accessible interpretations of classic works and
Metamorphoses is no exception. Based on Ted Hughes's Tales From Ovid  -  the 1997 Whitbread Book of The Year and evocative retelling of Ovid's Metamorphoses  -  this final show in Metro's 2006 Independents series represents the ensemble's first excursion into non-Shakespearean work but their reputation for illuminating the past in the present is strongly upheld.

Metamorphoses QSE drill our mythological heritage for contemporary relevancies and while some of these may be harder to grasp with a hung-over head than others, the trademark skill, humour and love of language that QSE bring to their productions is ever-present and their material on this occasion is engrossing, to say the least.

What with mythic mothers cooking their children and serving them to adulterating husbands, this is a lean-forward-in-your-chair kind of production! As Jung asserted, forgotten myths become cultural shadows, and while this reviewer didn't consciously recognize any personal specters as dared by the show's publicity, revisiting Ovid's tales in QSE's expert hands is at all times as engaging as it is educative.

But wait  -  isn't Ovid's expedition into human history via Greek mythology a 15-book epic? Well, yes, but QSE, directed by local legend Leah Mercer, have honed in on four of the best for an intense, no-interval evocation of the shadows of the human psyche. There's the myth of creation; the wild wooing of shape-shifting sea-nymph Thetis by determined virgin-impregnator Peleus; the woes of Echo  -  mother of tongue-tied unrequited lovers everywhere  -  and her crush on the beautiful, self-obsessed Narcissus and then of course, there's Tereus, the faithless husband who gets his just desserts  -  and then some  -  after raping and mutilating his sister-in-law.

Man  -  they don't make myths like they used to!

Decked out in contemporary attire and toting cleverly-implemented mobile phones, the cast (QSE artistic director and vocal coach, Rob Pensalfini, with Eileen Conway, Christina Koch, Tamara Meade, Mark Tsang and movement director Jo Loth) give strong, and at times even harrowing performances as they share narration and a multitude of roles; Carolyn Emerson's lighting and Gavin Edwards' sound further add beauty and intrigue to an enduring exploration of human nature and its darker places.

Metro Independents and Queensland Shakespeare Ensemble present Metamorphoses at Metro's Sue Benner Theatre until Saturday Nov 25. Wed-Sat (8pm). Matinees: Sat (2pm). Bookings: 3002 7100.