This autumn, Chris Thorpe tells the story of Beowulf’s legendary bravery, and has updated it, turning it into a one-woman, rock-n-roll show.
The mono-rock-opera begins in Heorot, the famed mead-hall notorious for hosting parties so awesome they awoke monsters from their supernatural slumbers. The hall is given a modern twist with a DJ booth and storey-high speakers. Danny Saul can be spotted in the background spinning his decks, providing the promised live soundtrack that ranges from 'immersive metal' to 'electro-infused'.
When the dry ice clears on the industrial party set Beowulf (Debbie Korley) appears, and she wouldn’t look out of place leading a pack of War Boys in Mad Max.
From there, it’s a rock rollicking journey through the oldest story in the English Literature history books: Beowulf leads a band of warriors, defeats monsters, and generally just tries to be a good king. Grendel appears, playing a six-string bass. Grendel’s mother is a mirrored, shapeless sculpture that hangs from the ceiling.
Debbie Korley truly captivates, delivering the poem as a 75-minute soliloquy. It requires a very specific type of talent to keep an audience of children enraptured armed with little more than a microphone, monologue, and mohawk.
Keeping with the oral tradition of epic poetry that Beowulf may or may not have originated from – it’s a hot topic of debate amongst scholars – the play has a very ghost story around the campfire feel. This is perpetuated by the fog machine and by the stage itself occasionally emitting jets of flame.
The biggest divergence from the source material is retelling the poem from a first-person perspective. The creative choice makes the story more accessible for children, while also questioning themes of violence and bravery that run rampant throughout the original text. The play humanises the epic hero, grappling with questions the poem circumvented. Was Beowulf afraid when he battled Grendel? What is the real price of peace?
Beowulf has jokes that only fans of the 1000AD version will understand: the performance opens satirising epic catalogue of names: 'I would tell you about who I am, but then I’d have to tell you about my parents, and then my grandparents…' Indeed, the performance will likely be most appreciated by those who have read and enjoyed the original.
There's no better way to acquaint your little ones with the epic world of monster battles and chivalric codes than by introducing them to Beowulf. Part poem, part rock concert, and entirely epic, this production is one for the ages.
Ages: 8 - 13
|What||Beowulf, Unicorn Theatre|
|Where||The Unicorn Theatre, 147 Tooley St, London, SE1 2HZ | MAP|
|Nearest tube||London Bridge (underground)|
01 Oct 17 – 05 Nov 17, 1:00 PM – 2:15 PM
|Website||Click here for tickets and more information|