Superbly slick and highly inventive, Pants On Fire’s version of Ovid’s Metamorphoses is an Edinburgh Fringe award-winning, fast and fun frolic through the ancient poet’s classical tales of the supernatural.
The seven versatile musician-actors (and a couple of excellent puppets by designer Samuel Wyer) update the myths and legends in a series of wartime Britain vignettes complete with received pronunciation and goosestepping.
Opening with the blinding of Tiresias (Alex Packer) who instead gains the gift of foresight, we are reminded that he prophesised that man will triumph over nature, that war will follow and chaos will prevail. Who needs Nostradamus?
Using a memorable blend of performance, film, puppetry and original music by Lucy Egger, director Peter Bramley’s adaption explores mankind’s connection with nature and the changes wrought by circumstance.
A schoolboy Cupid (partly Mabel Jones) flits about causing havoc with his wanton arrows, a slinky Juno (the superbly versatile Jo Dockery) is on a mission to thwart womanising husband Jupiter (Jonathan Davenport) while Io (a compelling performance by Jones) moos her way to redemption in a gas mask and tap shoes watched by the many eyes of Argus Panoptes.
Narcissus (Tom McCall) falls for his celluloid self while usher Echo (Hannah Pierce) is lovestruck and stuck for words; RAF pilot Icarus flies too close to the sun; the Sirens just are while the Gestapo Gorgon interrogates Andromeda and curler-clad Medusa (Eloise Secker) is a harridan in a nylon housecoat.
Theseus (Packer) is lost in the labyrinth of his mind, despite Ariadne’s guiding wool, while chattering nurses hilariously tend to him, and Bacchus throws a VE party.
Daphne, Apollo, Persus, Daedalus, Semele and Atlas are all there but most memorable are the clever sleight of hand use of what look like doors and the hilarious pursuit of Hermaphroditus (Packer again) by the swimsuit-clad Salmacis (that excellent Dockery).
A breathless 75 minutes of silliness and skill – why oh why weren’t the classics taught like this at school?