The Ring Cycle Plays

Theatre, Fringe Free
4 out of 5 stars

Time Out says

4 out of 5 stars

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For most of us, the mention of Richard Wagner’s ‘Ring Cycle’ operas will conjure up the vision of a fat lady in a Viking helmet singing at full tilt for ten hours straight.

There’s certainly none of that in this sassy, pared-down adaptation of the composer’s epic blend of German and Scandinavian myths, staged for free as part of the More London Free Festival. Phil Willmott and Lisa Kuma’s well-crafted and poetic adaptation focuses only on the stories: there’s no opera and as a result you could watch the entire cycle in one night (as opposed to the usual run time of 20-odd hours).

Some might query the point of ‘The Ring Cycle’ without the music, but I’d wager not for long. There’s more than enough magic, adventure and intrigue to satisfy in the stories, which will seem familiar to ‘Lord of the Rings’-loving audiences and have been made accessible for kids aged nine and over.

The four 50-minute plays focus on the king of the gods, Wotan, his family and his dealings with a troublesome magic ring. It’s a ring that brings power, wealth and misery to any who hold it and after being stolen from some mermaids (Rhine Maidens), it is passed from troll (dwarf in the original) to god to giant to mortal, wreaking havoc as it goes. Its unearthing signals the demise of the old regime of gods.

Wilmott also directs, and his staging is enhanced by sweet makeshift puppets designed by Charlie Hoare. The show is simple but effective, using depth of perspective when portraying giants and smart movement to suggest the ring’s magic.

It’s a strong ensemble: Amy Christina Murray is hugely plausible as a feisty, quick-moving Brünhilde; there’s a nice comic turn from Terence Frisch as Mime the troll who tricks Wotan’s grandson; Philip Scott-Wallace is excellent as a Siegfried with brawn but no brains. Theo Holloway’s evocative soundscapes suggest distant thunder, heavy boots and scraping of swords so subtly that you’ll be looking over your shoulder for the rain clouds and marching soldiers.

But what really emerges from the evening is just how eternal, vital and fun these stories really are. We were enthralled by them two centuries ago, we’re equally captured by them now, and they’ll probably still be weaving their magic in hundreds of years to come.



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