Jason and the Argonauts – A Review
Jason rallies up his Argonauts on a quest for the Golden Fleece, encountering all myths and legends, whilst Zeus and Hera toy with the mortals’ lives. The question is, will Jason succeed in his quest, return to his homeland and take the throne, but most importantly, survive?
The studio that sits atop the Playhouse had been flushed with blue lights flowing over a mosaic floor, transforming the black box into a deceptively expansive Greek setting; which simultaneously felt relaxing with protection from Asclepius, and also a ship headed through the choppy seas towards danger. Lisa Jones (Set and Costume) had instantly transported the audience to a Greek landscape, before the play had begun, and cleverly blurred the lines between fantasy and reality, security and danger – exactly what the film and play entails. The high strings that were piercing through the audience chatter created a heightened sense of alertness, whilst the heavy drum beat, thumping in time with our hearts, a beat to row in time to, brought the audience together in sailing forward towards the unknown Greek myths and legends… or are they just myths and legends?
Chris Tomlinson (Director) and Rachael Smart (Assistant Director) takes us through this fast-paced script (adapted by Andrew Byron) which is full of wit and filled with literal jokes. Heightened by the astounding actors’ performances were intelligent jokes based upon word play, informed knowledge of Greek myth, and issues with sexism making this play a real joy to engage with. Whilst understanding the conventions and weaknesses of the film, the play takes these ideas and plays with them, creating laughs out of something so ludicrous that as a child we may have believed to be real. Nonetheless, the production was kept as a non-stop adventure, filled with humour, emotion, and enjoyment.
I have genuinely never smiled so much (probably since the first time I saw the film as a child), and was transported to a world of pure imagination. This play takes imagination, and makes it a reality before your very eyes.
Not only is the script well-written, it is elevated to another level through the sheer direction and brilliance of the cast. Not one single cast member can be credited as a stand-out, but merely all of them as a collective. The young actors quickly and seamlessly switch between characters, changing voices and mannerisms, allowing the audience to easily follow and believe the story.
The use of little props further reinforces the need for imagination but also focuses the audience on the acting, making the audience believe there are eight guards before them with spears, despite no costume or actual spear. Not only was belief suspended through (lack of) costume and prop, the audience hung onto every word that was spoken, that it was the truth: a Hydra does exist!
The second act cut back on the humour, once the journey for the Golden Fleece had really taken off, demonstrating another side of the actor’s abilities; one of pure emotion, experimenting with styles, and most importantly, perfecting their craft.
What didn’t change throughout was that actors appeared and disappeared in a flash, appearing in all directions – to the side, in front, behind – creating a space that appeared larger than it was, creating surprise in a space that seemed restricted. With over-the-top battles, seeming vast and over-empowering to descending into utter chaos and calamity, the play never had a dull moment and never a moment too small. A strong round of applause towards the creative team for being able to work with this space, and make it something much, much more.
The choreography (Grace Goulding, Dan Meigh) and the creative team (particularly Holly Patra & YEP & BASE Technicians) behind creating such an amazing play showed their talent by constantly demonstrating what can be achieved in such a small space. Through actors huddling together to create a bull, to skilful puppetry, and fight sequences – the dimming of the lights with a subdue blue glow over skeleton outfits made them just as menacing as the (if what now horrific) stop-motion animation. This not only pays homage to the film, but does it significant justice.
Not only were the audience witnessing a phenomenal play with incredible talent, they were watching our generation’s future performers across stage, television, and film. I sit typing with pure joy and admiration, and hope… hope that I get the joy of seeing these stars again on stage, and in the future, sat in front of my television saying ‘I saw them when no one knew the names, but you better believe we recognised their talent’.
Chris Tomlinson, sit back and revel in smugness, because I would like to see this go to the main stage, where your cast are also heading. As for the cast (who deserve all their names to be listed, and I am going to); Ross Almond, NataliaBarton, Leonardo Bertamini, Olivia Doherty, WillFlush, Neve Kelmen, Kieran Kidd,Aimee Marnell, Lucy McCormack, Elizabeth Meadows, Chloe Nall-Smith, Rachel Newnham, Joseph Owens, Phil Rayner, Jessica Reilly, Matty Roberts, NatalieVaughen, and Owen Welsh, take a bow. Without any one of you, this wouldn’t have been the masterpiece in youth theatre that it was.