directed by Cora Bissett
A huge topic and an ambitious project for lunchtime theatre, however, this play certainly had the audience engrossed. It told the sad tale of Hephaistos (Vulcan) banished from Olympia by the Gods because his mother Hera could not abide to look at him.
James Cunningham was terrific in the role of Hephaistes, seething with resentment at his fate and nursing his passionate feelings for his half-sister Aphrodite, he throws himself into his work as a blacksmith. Hephaistos sees himself creating 'perfection from baseness' in his work producing unbreakable chains, invincible weapons and even a piece of beautiful jewellery for Aphrodite.
His other main task is acting as jailer to Prometheus, the firemaker, who has also fallen out of favour with the Olympians. Promethius is played by Keith Fleming and the interaction between him and James Cunningham is unfaltering in holding your attention.
There is an awful lot going in in Chris Dolan's play, which has a number of unusual elements. Two of the characters, Zeus and Hera, appear not on the stage but on the backdrop of a large screen. Initially, they are joined by their daughter Aphrodite (Catriona Grozier), who makes a fine Goddess, and the device works well showing the Gods looking down at the characters on the stage from their privileged position. This effectively conveys on them celebrity status. John Kazek makes a wonderful Zeus, sophisticated, svelte and sardonic, whilst Sally Howitt is equally well caste as the glamourous and superficial Hera, whose main priority is image. Her slogan being that it is better to be beautiful than good - the ideas resonate well with current media fixations.
As parents they are callous and uncaring but there is a humorous quality in Hera's preening and Zeus' lack of patience with his family, which comes into play when he sends the vapid and vain Aphrodite to be with Hephaistes. However, Aphrodite, whilst having some feelings for Hephaistes, does not reciprocate his passion and he is full of anguish when she betrays him in a sexual encounter with the hunky Eros.
The story and atmosphere are helped along by Gerry Rossi's fine music performed by the Sirens of Titan Choir and conducted by Peter Shand. The music cleverly echoes the tone of the play with its mixture of moody darkness interspersed with just a touch of humour.
Dolan's work is full of contrasts - the glamourous world of the Olympians and the violence, toil and misery that characterises Hephaistos' world. Unloved and unlovely - has the bravado of a Glesga fella pointing out that 'the Gods have got a god awful temper' and asking of Prometheus "you been talkin' tae ma auld dear".
And despite the lightness and irony of John Kazek's touch you do indeed feel that 'No-one says 'No' to Zeus'. Aphrodite and Ares' erotic coupling is in stark contrast to the scene where Hephaistos attempts to furtively masturbate. Both of these scenes made me feel a bit uncomfortable - the latter being rather gratuitous and the love scene teetering on the edge of musical theatre.
It was also a wee bit disappointing that unlike Aphrodite, Zeus and Hera did not make it in person onto the set. However, the actors were all supberb, in particular, James Cunninghame, but it was a colossal task to fit this epic tale into such a short play. Nonetheless, it was enjoyable and absorbing and the topic quite fascinating. Not surprisingly much of the talk in OranMor over after-theatre drinks was whether Chris Dolan might expand upon his Olympian theme.
When questioned the writer did not seem at all opposed to this suggestion!