Following the struggle of Prometheus (Henry Regan) after stealing fire and protecting the human race from Zeus’ wrath which prompt Hephaestus (Mark Moore), Force (Alex Sycamore) and Power (Jacob Dunn) to leave him immobile on a desolate rock on a mountain, it’s fair to say that Prometheus Bound is one of the most dramatic Ancient Greek tragedies.
And this production’s interpretation of it, which relies heavily on breathless monologues, articulately enunciated lines and shouting up to the heavens, is so dramatic that it’s almost exhausting to watch.
A strong cast ensures that this version of Prometheus Bound is consistently pacey and energetic. Particular highlights include: Prometheus’ closing speech, which resonates with a modern audience and allows it to empathise with the isolation that Prometheus grapples with; the spiteful monologue that Hermes (Chris Walters) delivers towards the play’s end and the desperate pleas that Io (Christie Banks) addresses to her audience after she has been transformed into a cow.
However, aspects of this production give it an am-dram feel that even a series of very competently delivered monologues cannot quite make up for. The Oceanids, who act as a chorus providing comfort to Prometheus during his most desperate moments, are identically styled. Each of the five girls has long, backcombed hair, wears blue, chiffon robes and has dramatic, turquoise eye shadow on.
It’s a shame, then, that Calypso (Sereal Asphall) speaks with a noticeable West London accent, while the others adopt received pronunciation and that Clymene (Sally Preston) only sways half-heartedly, while the others embody the sea in their movements enthusiastically. Still, they are to be commended for retaining character throughout their entire time on stage, which is actually most of the play.
Based in the back of a Kennington pub, the White Bear Theatre is oddly charming. The set consists of white cloth draped over a chalkboard backdrop and chains hanging from the ceiling, which Prometheus remains attached to throughout the play’s entirety. This is simple and allows the audience to give its full attention to Prometheus’ emotional turmoil. The costumes benefit from being simple too, although some of them look a bit like A Level Art coursework.
The main problem, I suppose, is that this production starts so energetically that it doesn’t really have anywhere to go. Many of the monologues are emotive, and impressive because of it, but they aren’t given the chance to elevate.
These monologues would benefit from starting off a little more quietly and increasing in intensity as Prometheus’ situation grows more desperate. Still, Prometheus Bound showcases some very impressive acting from a group of actors who are doubtlessly ones to watch.