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Ragnarok (Bentwaters Parks)

Mankind tends to create gods in its own image. The Nordic pantheon – as depicted in "Ragnarok" – was just as selfish, manipulative and downright devious as its counterpart on Mount Olympus.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Josh Elwell (giant) & Idun
© Mike Kwasniak Photography 2014

If you call the downfall of the gods Götterdammerung (as in Wagner's Der Ring des Nibelungen), opera-goers at least will have an idea of how the downfall of the Nordic gods came about. Charles Way's Ragnarok covers some of the same ground as Das Rheingold, but I suspect a lot of the story will be new to the Eastern Angles audiences.

Hal Chambers' production puts considerable physical demands on the actors, who anyway have to compete with Samuel Wyer's puppets, a variety of flexible settings and Andy Purves' complex lighting plot. Not to mention the swirling, sometimes slow-motion physical theatre movements devised by Polly Bennett and Benjamin Hudson's elaborate (at times over-complex) sound design.

Villains always manage to upstage the good, the wise and even the beautiful; Oliver Hoare's Loki is no exception. Loki must surely be the origin of the saw about having a chip on one's shoulder and Hoare suggests very cleverly how intelligence and the ability to think laterally can be deformed by a sense of perceived injustice.

Some of this comes from Odin (Antony Gabriel), a deity prepared to make himself a sacrifice in pursuit of knowledge while still cheating on his bargains. Caught up in the aftermath of this is Freya, who Gracy Goldman makes into the embodiment of spring. Her eerie counterpart is the hapless Idun, one of Wyer's must successful puppet creations.

Cheated of his agreed fee for building the gods' fortifications, the mason takes revenge as he transforms into a terrifying giant. Josh Elwell is excellent in both manifestations. Sarah Thom is the cobweb-draped Norm who so fruitlessly counsels Odin. The brave, muscular but slow-witted Thor is well characterised by Theo Ogundipe.

Fiona Putnam's Frigga has the measure of her wayward lord, but none of the gods have the power to prevent Loki's revenge on his gentle sibling Baldr (Tom McCall). Most of the cast take on other roles, including a high-stepping horse as well as manipulating the puppets; Loki's pet wof proved to be an audience favourite.

Ragnarok continues in the Hush House, Bentwaters Parks until 28 September.

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