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Ovid's Metamorphosis

Tron Theatre, Glasgow
4 stars
There's something ineffably clever about Pants on Fire's audacious
reimagining of Roman poet Ovid's post-BC best-seller. It's not just its
re-jigged setting to World War Two England, where soldiers of land, sea
and air rub up against posh-frocked gels who talk in cut-glass, quite
too utterly pukkah tones. It's the way this devised show, written and
directed by Peter Bramley alongside a seven-strong ensemble of
actor-musicians, manage to wend their merry way through a well-drilled
whirlwind of utilitarian parlour-room show-and-tell with hints of
Weimar cabaret to serve up a breathless reinvention of ancient myths.
This comes by way of a series of doomed golly-gosh yarns of love, death
and derring-do that attempt to pluck some order from the
all-encroaching chaos.

So Jupiter is a randy old toff whose long-suffering spouse Juno works a
magic of her own, Cupid is a mischievous, catapult-wielding evacuee,
Semele a pool-loving escapee from a Busby Berkeley flick, and Narcissus
a square-jawed matinee idol who falls head-over-heels for his
big-screen image just as cinema usherette Echo hangs on his every word.
Co-opting Ovid's focus on affairs of the heart for their own ends, such
is the propensity of stiff-upper-lipped top-drawer rumpy-pumpy that at
times one wonders whether one has landed on a staging of an unaired
episode of The Camomile Lawn.

But there's a serious point to this high-concept melange of puppetry,
film and live action. It may take until the birth of Bacchus for the
bunting to come out and the party to really get started, but it's left
to blind old man Tiresius to prophecy a future of death, disaster and
disharmony. Victory, it seems, comes with a price.

The Herald, April 25th 2011

ends

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