So it’s entirely appropriate that this year the enterprising company is staging Ovid’s Metamorphoses. Starting with creation, the Roman poet spins tale after interwoven tale of transformations wrought through enchantment by the Graeco-Roman gods in their interactions with humankind.
The eight energetic multi-talented performers who guide us through Ovid’s landscape, courtesy of London’s wooded parkland, are themselves constantly changing, not just acting styles and roles, (the men also genderbending to play sexy femmes fatales with indecent relish!), but even changing species. The convincing hounds are a result of closely-observed dogs, (the programme credits dog breeders and groomers) and poignant transformations into the very trees themselves are effected through designer Becky Hurst’s evocative masks.
Director Jonathan Petherbridge gloriously transforms the mundane into the magical. A huge lawnmower becomes the chariot of the sun-god, its out-of-control careerings bringing ruin to earth and death to the god’s fatally ambitious half-mortal son, Phaeton. With a few deft twists, swathes of long white sheets make wedding dress and table, snake and winding sheet, entrance to hell, and even the stream down which Orpheus’ severed head must float, in script writer Simon Startin’s retelling of the story of Orpheus and Eurydice, by turns touching and terrifying.
Such tales may be familiar. But there are also less familiar - but no less beguiling – tales; for example, lusty shape-changing Vertumnus’ (god of seasons) wily pursuit of strapping but virginal country gel Pomona, (goddess of orchards) – a heroine straight out of John Betjeman.
Actor/musical director Craig Byrne’s score ranges from haunting to rambunctious. And in this delightful ensemble of actors of complementary shapes and sizes, it’s great to see Byrne, Daniel Copeland Rachel Essex, Sophie Russell and Dan Tuite back at the Bubble, alongside newcomers Nicole Davis, Amit Sharma and Davina Silver happily equally at home.
Around me schoolchildren and grannies alike sat spellbound on the stools and rugs provided, transfixed by these immortal tales of transformation.
- Judi Herman (reviewed at Manor Farm, Ruislip)