Edinburgh Fringe 2022
Mythology and professional wrestling collide – very literally – in this thrilling reimagining of Norse creation stories. Featuring a cast of professional wrestlers, The Mythological Theatre has created an unmissable evening of full contact theatre.
The Mythological Theatre’s debut show is a tour-de-force journey through Norse mythology, starting from the very beginning, the creation of the Nine Worlds, and Odin is our guide. In the hour that follows we witness the trials and tribulations that the gods face, all told through the glorious medium of professional wrestling.
And really, there is no more perfect a medium for these stories. Each god’s character is writ large in the performers’ physicalities, from Thor’s straightforward strength to Loki’s cunning. Coming from a society famed – at least in popular media – for its martial prowess, it is perhaps unsurprising that Norse mythology is fraught with physical conflict and this is thrillingly expressed here. There is a real sense of danger to each battle, as the cast bring their years of experience as professional wrestlers to bear. This is no half-hearted stage combat, but real full contact wrestling, with all of the risk that the form brings with it. It is phenomenally impressive and very easy to imagine, watching performers being hurled across the stage, that you really are watching battles between gods and giants.
For all the fighting is spectacular, this is far from mere spectacle. Ed Gamester’s script updates the myths you may be familiar with, providing much-needed clarity in places, and introducing moral ambiguity in others. I won’t spoil it, but there are some surprising villains here. There is some fine acting too, with stand out performances from Gamester in the role of the imposing and headstrong Odin, and Michael Reece, who imbues Loki with twinkling charm and deep-seated emotion.
One of the great strengths of Mythos: Ragnarok is that it doesn’t tell its audience who they should root for. Instead we are left to decide who the faces and heels are for ourselves. (That’s the heroes and villains, if you aren’t familiar with wrestling parlance.) Wrestling is such a present and immediate form of storytelling and the audience are very much involved in this, booing, cheering, and chanting. This audience participation feels particularly apt given the subject matter; myths are stories that belong to the people, after all.
As Gamester informs us at the end of the show, part of the reason he created Mythological Theatre is because wrestlers like him and his cast are not taken seriously as performance artists, despite being a physically demanding and dangerous discipline, requiring them to improvise fights, often at a moment’s notice, while adhering to complex storylines. Mythos: Ragnarok proves beyond doubt that these performers deserve the industry’s and their audiences’ respect and admiration. It walks a careful tightrope, catering to wrestling fans and mythology lovers alike, providing references and jokes to please both, while remaining welcoming to audiences members who have no prior knowledge of either. Adrenaline-inducing stunts mix with meaty storytelling to create an evening that is truly unforgettable.