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Blush of Dogs

  • Theatre, Fringe
  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Recommended

Time Out says

4 out of 5 stars

A bloody retelling of ancient Greek tale of two brothers King Atreus and Thyestes.

Fragen Theatre Company’s take on the ancient Greek myth of feuding brothers King Atreus and Thyestes – the latter returning from exile to a country ruined by their war for the throne – is a demented cackle of a play. It’s a bloodied ride through tragedy, exerting a feverish pull as it careens from the epic to the absurd with arterial-black humour.

Writer-director Roland Reynolds sets the tale against a rubbish-filled, dystopian backdrop that hints at nuclear fallout. Tiresias, the kingdom’s old, blind hermaphroditic prophet, is bird-like in a hollow-eyed gas mask, trembling at the rage lurking behind Atreus’s smooth talk of peace and reconciliation. The kingdom’s chorus of eavesdropping slaves are feral and disfigured.

In Reynolds’ hands, we get dangerously jacked-up machismo and frustrated emasculation – translated in one brilliantly bonkers scene into an oiled-up wrestling match between the brothers that reaches epically homoerotic proportions. Aerope, Atreus’s wife, and Thyestes’s three ill-fated daughters become, like the country, collateral to their mutual obsession.

What keeps this all afloat is the sheer energy of the sudden shifts in tone, the slamming together of dark moments like the despairing Aerope’s suicide with scenes of Grand Guignol excess that land like slapstick. The play manages to collide with itself, producing sparks without shattering. It shouldn’t work – and it doesn’t, always – but somehow the bile bubbles into bleak laughter when nothing is allowed to matter for very long.

Ben Alderton (Atreus), Mike Corsale (Thyestes) and Anna Procter (Aerope) capture the big and the small of their characters – dragging them out of myth while taking turns at playing the chorus and a Tiresias who whiffs distinctly of bullshit. Here, ‘fate’ is a flimsy fig leaf for the yawning abyss created by abuse and human failing.


£17, £15 concs
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