Ovid’s Metamorphoses – New Wolsey Studio

You may think you know Classical mythology and the takes on warring gods but, after Pants On Fire’s gloriously witty updating of Ovid’s Metamorphoses, you’ll never be able to look at the tales in the same light again.

Transposing the tales to Second World War Britain, complete with cut glass accents, tea dances and air raid sirens, the company produces 90 minutes of non stop theatrical magic. Gods become cads, pilots or soldiers and the blitz spirit is alive and well. It may sound contrived but it never feels a false scenario, the myths and legends fitting comfortably into the Blighty setting.

Some of classic literature’s most famous characters get a comic makeover. Cupid is turned into a wonderfully executed evacuee puppet, Narcissus into a swooning matinee idol, and even an Esther Williams bathing belle makes a guest appearance.

This is a show packed full of theatrical invention, combining music, drama, dance, film, puppetry and enough magic to fill a much larger stage. It’s all performed with split-second accuracy as people appear and disappear with deceptive ease. A series of sliding panels make for an almost cinematic flow to the piece, a feeling aided by the effective use of film and projection.

Alongside the madcap comedy there is also a great sense of pathos and love lost with Jupiter’s love, Io, transformed into a cow by his jealous wife, Juno, condemned to only be able to write her name in the dust in front of her grieving father.

It would be so easy for this show to descend into parody but it’s played with such conviction and accuracy by the company that even the most absurd moments seem utterly believable.

Small scale shows often resort to simple staging but Pants On Fire demonstrate that with skill and thought companies can create shows that are visually stunning and theatrically inventive without breaking the bank.

Ovid’s Metamorphoses is a example of the power of theatre to take a familiar tale, turn it on its head and produce a new piece of work that not only complements the original but stands alone on its own merit. A truly remarkable and magical evening.

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