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Adelaide Fringe 2016

Beowulf: The Blockbuster

Arts Projects Australia with support from Culture Ireland

Genre: Theatre

Venue: The German Club - 223 Flinders Street, Adelaide


Low Down

In the grand tradition of Irish storytelling, this poignant one-man extravaganza shows that heroism can come not only from cheating death but also through facing it. A clever transformation of the epic Old English poem Beowulf becomes the vehicle through which a man tries to explain to his young son that all heroes can’t survive all battles. Roaring tales of heroes slaying dragons and monsters are translated across generations into the language of Star Wars and blockbuster Hollywood movies with humour, sorrow, wit and warmth.


All eyes are on the tremendously talented Bryan Burroughs as he narrates the story of a father explaining some of life’s lessons to his nine-year-old son. Burroughs is a tour de force as he plays a string of characters – the father, the son, Beowulf, characters from the poem, the grandma, the son’s friends and foes at school…his transitions are seamless and each character portrayed deliberately. He artfully tells the story from different perspectives, starting with the son as a foetus, about to enter the world.

The story starts by setting the scene and context – perhaps a little too much time spent enacting an idyllic childhood during which time the father and son form a close bond, as the mother died shortly after giving birth. They go to the movies to watch all the blockbusters, do the housework together and support each other emotionally. When the father finds out he’s seriously ill and has very little time left with his son, he strives to impart all his wisdom and teach as many of life’s lessons as possible by telling his son the story of Beowulf. With the assistance of Star Wars, Indiana Jones and other classic tales that draw strong parallels with the original English poem, the father acts out the message of his sickness, the importance of courage, sacrifice, love, and wit to the delightful nine-year-old.

The unexpected interjections from the son drawing insightful comparisons with his favourite movies are what made this performance particularly entertaining – it was astounding the way Burroughs charmed his way into the hearts of the audience as both, a naïve nine-year-old boy and as a dying, but strong-willed man. The audience responded to all the jibes and wisecracks despite the poignancy that hung over the entire story.

The stage was simple, the familiar soundtracks and movie scores swelled in time to the story being acted out on stage, and the light transitions were perfectly choreographed to Burrough’s performance. It was a memorable evening that even those who were not familiar with the story of Beowulf enjoyed.