Staged in the round, Changing Destiny positions its audience as if gathered around a campfire to hear the ancient tale. Instead of a fire, architect and designer Sir David Adjaye’s glowing yellow pyramid forms the centrepiece, with a darker inverted pyramid balanced on top. The bottom structure opens out like a box to reveal a smaller central stage, while the nabla (inverted triangle) doubles up as a screen on which unnamed faces deliver messages to the warrior, and hieroglyphics dance.
Joan Iyiola and Ashley Zhangazha in Changing Destiny. Photo: Marc Brenner
Using a trope currently popular on the London stage, actors Joan Iyiola (Tree) and Ashley Zhangazha (Ah, Wilderness!) only decide who will play who once they’re already on stage; a game of rock, paper, scissors sealing the deal. For this particular performance, Zhangazha played the part of Sinuhe, with Iyiola portraying his soul and the various other characters he meets on his epic journey from the court of King Amenemhet I to the care of Chief Ammunenshi.
The pair narrate the tale in first person, often describing rather than enacting their moves, and employing a level of raw storytelling that's alien to our 21st-century attention spans. It’s a big story to tell in just an hour – one that moves at the pace of a fast-flowing river, with seemingly important plot points glided over too quickly – and it’s easy to get lost along the way. Urgent themes of exile and the mental relationship maintained with a homeland left behind are subtly present too, but worthy of more patient exploration.
Ashley Zhangazha in Changing Destiny. Photo: Marc Brenner
There’s plenty to admire about Kwei-Armah’s production, not least Zhangazha’s classy set design and composer Tunde Jegede’s score, which carries us through this region of north-east Africa through a vivid soundscape of chanting, battle drums and regional melodies. Performances, too, are worthy of note. Zhangazha brings an earnest openness to the role of Sinuhe, with Iyiola masterfully shifting shape by his side, slipping into new characters with the simple addition of a shawl, crown or walking stick.
Changing Destiny is an ambitious production with the potential to really educate its audience on one of the world’s first known stories. But with little by way of visual aid, this bare-bones storytelling places undue responsibility on the ears to capture the tale and it’s easy to get lost along the way.
|What||Review: Changing Destiny, Young Vic|
|Where||The Young Vic, 66 The Cut, Waterloo, London, SE1 8LZ | MAP|
|Nearest tube||Waterloo (underground)|
24 Jul 21 – 21 Aug 21, Performances 19:30 - 20:30pm with additional 2:30pm matinees
|Price||£10 - £43|
|Website||Click here for more information and to book|