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
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 75-90-minute plays where clutches of gods tell their stories. Before they’re forgotten and fade.
As fortunes of avatars this recalls the witty almost forgotten world of Topper Takes a Trip author Thorne Smith’s The Nightlife of the Gods (1931) where the gods‘ statues are brought to life in America by a scientist. But those gods get bored.
Written and directed by Ross McGregor for Arrows and Traps this quintet of multiple tales is given a contemporary versioning, a retelling keeping outlines but a series of intercut monologues – one actor voicing three characters.
MacGregor’s writing is witty, wisely edged, with unexpected twists not only into present-day adaptations but a real interrogation of the original premises of myths by gods themselves.
Take Nicolle Smartt’s Hestia for example. And her sister Demeter, also Smartt with different lighting. And Demeter’s daughter Cora too. Fated celibate goddess of hearth and home Hestia only has the freedom to dye her ashen hair. She’s being questioned by a judge. Why did she leave? And who’s the judge?
Green lighting for red, and we’re with Demeter – mother of harvests– is more demotic too, enacting a different register. Literally earthy, since without her it’d bear nothing. And she can’t stay till or the A47 will turn into a wheatfield. She’s pretty XR, eco-warrior and pretty final with developers. He can’t speak to her oppo Limos famine goddess through a nymph and wreaks a suitable revenge.
There’s more rapid interplay with the two characters recalling their time in their father Saturn’s stomach, no support group for that. Then there’s brothers. How can one sister protect another? Self-exile and we’re off the A47 and into a start-up business. Then the birth of Demeter’s daughter Cora. Smartt again.
Who’s bored. Smartt’s register goes teeny in violet light. Cora’s no XR type and the generations here get inverted, but despite the fact her mother can make sunshine, Cora can’t understand her mother’s fervent activism.
Through sunshine Cora meets that ‘total sun god’ Apollo. Owen Burley’s voiceover. Still he’s off on a semester and she’s only got him on Instagram. And as this is recorded film we get Burley’s Instagram posts as well as his voice, rising like neat lozenges in front of Cora.
But send nudes? Then as Apollo disdains her, Hades gets to see them. As Cora vanishes we’re in painfully relevant territory, even more acute with the abduction and murder of Sarah Everard.
But Hades is a dog shelter owner, Underworld for Underdogs in Eastbourne… Cora’s hooked. Choice. The outfall’s narrated by Hestia but when Cora returns and Demeter reacts it’s not Cora anymore but Persephone. Who’ll accommodate? Who’s lost and who set it all up?
Smartt’s register for all these – Hestia’s formal but warm-hearted restraint, Demeter’s sassy Essex with its dark undertow, Cora’s teen-hip world pretty close after all to Demeter – are wrought with consummate distinction. Her expressiveness is mobile too, facially not just vocally, and it’s not all down to the lighting. Smartt’s a protean interpreter.
There’s some neat critiques of what it means to have no choice, some wise, clever twists as Hestia addresses Zeus about choice, male determination, and consequence.