Brighton Fringe 2010
Icarus and his father are imprisoned in a labyrinth owned by a Minotaur. When they try to escape using wings, Icarus enjoys the freedom too much and flies near the sun. His fall ended in drowning.
This well known and loved Greek myth is a tricky tale to tell as there are so many different layers to portray and getting the wings to work is always difficult, unless you have a lot of money to play with and access to aerodynamics!
This unusual interpretation of Icarus however proves that you do not need any props, but merely suggestion in movement and minimalist set in order to tell this tale. Using the technique of a promenade production (in which the audience walks around and follow the actors as the story is told), we began in the foyer of the New Venture Theatre to hear the story of Icarus before being taken into the main theatre in which huge pieces of black material in panels gave the claustrophobic impression of being in a labyrinth.
Normally hearing the story before the actual production is a little bit of a let down as you know what is going to happen before the story even starts, but in this case, I could see why the story had to be read beforehand. What evolved in front of our eyes was an absurdist physical piece based on the actual tale. If we hadn’t heard the story (whether new to it or not), we would have been instantly lost within the plot. Essentially at first it was very distracting and confusing to have the three actresses in separate parts of the theatre doing different movements, but as the piece developed, you gradually got the idea that it was deliberately done to trick the audience and give them the feeling of the madness of being trapped within the maze. At the same time though, it would have been interesting to see what would have happened if the story was not told and the audience had been thrown straight into the show.
It also became clear that all three performers were taking on different aspects of Icarus himself. They were all dressed in white and started off blindfolded, which gave the piece a dangerous edge to it as anything could now happen – that is, bumping into the audience members for instance. But under the carefully choreographed directions by Saskia Ulrike Schilling, they managed somehow to avoid doing this and develop rather instinctive moves.
This made me wonder as things progressed whether having deliberately restrictive movements can actually cause a lot more freedom for an actor. I say this because as the labyrinth fell away with a cascade of white feathers to show flight and freedom, the movements were still controlled, but they became more experimental and instinctive as the journey towards the sun was shown. The movements were a cross between bird and animal like sequences, which gave Icarus a very sensual quality and made things a lot more suggestive of something else, which according to the programme invites the audience ‘to create their own pathway and explore different stories and perspectives and ultimately become part of the journey.’ This was definitely successful as people drew their own conclusions with plenty of discussion afterwards.
What struck me though in particular was the way in which the lighting and media was used to its fullest effect. It was dark and yet light at the same time, but at one point, the company came together to form a wall to show a film of a man screaming and crying in despair. Probably to show Daedalus’ despair as he watches his son fall to his death in front of him. The light then changed to a blackout with a gradual fade into a turquoise blue to signify the sea.
The ending was particularly powerful. It showed Icarus’ acceptance of death, but it wasn’t unhappy at all. It was more of a declaration of freedom for real this time. It indicated that there was more to offer in an afterlife than on earth, questioning the fact that freedom can be gained by being true to yourself. Is there actually more freedom by restriction? Or can we find the true happiness through instinct by release? Those are personal questions that were thrown up for me as a reviewer, but another audience member may have gathered something completely different.
This is a show that has got to be seen to be believed. Its many layers will leave you spellbound for 1 hour.