The Greek Gods are bored with the Olympics in particular the goddess Hera who, irritated that women cannot compete, takes positive action and transforms Hermaphrodite into both a heroine and a hero. Zeus and Hercules likewise inspire champions but Hermaphrodite finds that what the gods give they can also take away.
Co-directors Mark Smith and John Garfield Roberts create a fresh and cheeky, improvised feel for the show. So successful is this anarchic approach that it is a real surprise to later find that everything, even the apparent adlibs, are included in the script by Liam Tobin, Jamie Wood and Lauren Silver.
The writers take a ‘kitchen sink’ approach to the show and include everything except that proverbial item on the off-chance it might get a laugh. Puns abound. The ritual of athletes oiling each other leads to a slapstick routine. Power ballads like "Eye of the Tiger" are sung Vegas style. As Hercules is the junior member of the divine trio he is portrayed as a grotesque baby. Most significantly there is a rare mood of bawdy, rather than crudely suggestive, humour. Tobin cheerfully channels Frankie Howerd’s innuendo. Keddy Sutton mischievously brings an air of innocent exploration to the scene in which she discovers that Hera’s method of disguising her as a man includes a full cock and balls.
The anything goes attitude gives a bloated feel to the show and results in jokes being repeated. When a character says he comes from ‘Marathon’ the response is a glorious series of puns on the theme of chocolate. But the routine is repeated (with the names of shops substituted for sweets) when the location is given as ‘Argos’. This repetition gives the impression of an extended comedy sketch rather than an actual comic play.
Reservations aside The Games is a refreshing and very funny show that deserves a bigger audience than were there on the night I attended.
- Dave Cunningham