Fringe Online 2021
Written and Directed by Ross McGregor
Producer Chris Tester
Camera Operators Lucy Ioannou and Laurel Marks
Editor Andrew Flynn
Lighting Designer / Stage Manager Laurel Marks
Make-Up and Costume Lucy Ioannou
Additional Videography and Music Videos Lucy Ioannou
Movement Consultant Will Pinchin
Artwork Design SketchaSticki Studio
Technical Consultant Gianluca Zona
Performances permanently available. Arrows & Taps are grateful to the Arts Council, and ask for donations
The fourth god starts talking – those who’ve left Olympus, cast out, abandoning a crotchety and crippled Zeus.
The Arrows & Traps company with five plays return for Aphrodite, the fourth. Written and directed by Ross McGregor were about to embark on this series, then third lockdown came. It’s a superb recasting of myth.
So after thousands of years the Gods live among us and have their own Instagram accounts. Welcome to writer/director Ross McGregor’s series of five 75-85 minute plays where clutches of gods tell their stories. Before they’re forgotten and fade. They have no choice, no free will. That’s their distinct fate. Watch them writhe.
Because of plot it’s a more evenly divided ensemble of two than for instance Persephone where one actor does for three and the only other actor’s a brief voiceover. Aphrodite is 13 minutes longer than for instance Persephone too.
With Benjamin Garrison’s magnificently witty trans Aphrodite and Buck Braithwaite’s laddish psychotic Ares as under her thumb, for a moment – before careering off to sad destructive orgies he can’t control though has no choice over. And neither can die. Or stop swearing.
After all Aphrodite was born of a shorn cock. A danger to Zeus. Aphrodite’s chosen husband the Olympus-abandoned Vulcan could have wrought inter-stellar rockets, but chose to make exquisite toys. Taken back he’s given the terrible gift of Aphrodite, whom he knows is already at it with his brother Ares. There’s a twist, things don’t go Ares’ way. And who’s Eros’ father really? Or mother?
MacGregor ensures Aphrodite is no simple lover of Ares though, who does that momentous thing, choose her own agency. Quite how Calliope – goddess of poetry with a doctorate in clinical psychology and running a spoken word club in Brixton might be able to help – well, it’s involving.
Varying lighting’s possible because apart from that brief guest appearance these two characters are fixed.
Ares too has agency. First generation gods are immortal, but the second? We’re treated to a litany of our own warmongering, how Trump’s manage to revive prejudices everyone thought dead.
And Aphrodite’s joint is threatened by Dionysus causing a rival wine bar owned by Bobby Phoenix to open next door. And if there’s one thing Aphrodite hates it’s comments amount Phoenix’s daughter ‘she’s prettier than Aphrodite’ – war? Easy, get the father to fall in lust with her. Win win. Still there’s a bit of remorse there. Then there’s kids. And Ares, bizarrely faithful.
We’re suddenly treated to Nicolle Smartt’s Hestia (back in her green lighting) a bit freaked with a baby popping out of a tree, whom she gives to Cora/Persephone. Who rather swoons over ‘this fucking tree baby’ growing in a week to push-up boy Adonis (Braithwaite again, fetching in trunks). There’s a stand-off between Aphrodite and Persephone. Later Edward Spence’s Pygmalion puts in an appearance too.
Again the writing’s darker and paradoxically more human. Aphrodite reveals a plausible secret never heard before. ‘I can make love but never give it…’
Garrison’s shafts of pain are as involving as her sudden terriblus eruptions as a god, here and in other plays in the series. Braithwaite’s consummately armoured laddishness too crumbles on occasion to bewilderment and a kind of epiphany.
There’s strange epiphanies in Briton performance venues after all, and ways even Ares might defeat Zeus. MacGregor’s way with metamorphosis is to show how gods too can transform. And party. There’s a long talk to a surprising new being. Aphrodite might be a tad longer than needs, but this is a minimal critique of superb re-mything.