Victoria Fringe Festival 2016 Preview – Perseus & Andromeda
August 21, 2016
How does one rescue a play that’s been lost for nearly two thousand years? If we’re taking the advice of Mythical Physical Theatre – the minds behind last year’s fringe hit The Untold Tales of the Brothers Grimm – the road to recovery is paved with movement, music, acrobatics and dance. Showbill.ca’s Matt McLaren chats with their Artistic Producer Andrew G. Cooper.
Matt McLaren: Glad to have you back. How’s things been since The Untold Tales of the Brothers Grimm?
Andrew G. Cooper: Things with Chimera Theatre have been wonderful. Just after we toured The Untold Tales of the Brothers Grimm last summer we opened a co-production with Tranquille Tunnel Theatre called Crossroads that ran for two months in the fall of 2015. We were really excited about the show and doubly excited when the show broke previous audience attendance records for us.
After that we got ready to produce a new play called SuperZeroes which ran for a week in Kamloops in March 2016. We also started our own improv troupe called The Freudian Slips, who have been selling out shows regularly. Right now we’re in the middle of a run of another project called Knights of the Sun: Medieval Tournament Theatre at Sun Peaks. It’s running until August 28th and has been so much fun. So we’ve been busy and we’re very excited to be coming back to the Fringe after such a fun year.
MM: Euripides, that takes me back to first year theatre history. For those who don’t know, can you give us a primer him and this lost work you’ve created your piece from?
AGC: Euripides was a big deal in ancient Greece. Andromeda, the play that our show has grown from, was first staged in 412 BC, nearly two and a half thousand years ago. He revolutionized a lot of things in the early theatre world, particularly demonstrating sympathy towards victims of society like women and focusing on the inner lives and motivations of characters in a way that was previously unknown. This paved the way for great works like Shakespeare, you may have heard of him. Andromeda, his account of the Perseus and Andromeda myth, focused on Andromeda’s struggle as a woman in the patriarchal Grecian world.
MM: What exactly is Mythical Physical Theatre? Besides a mouthful.
AGC: The style of our show is difficult to describe but at it’s simplest it’s combining two things: myth-based ancient Greek theatre and non-verbal storytelling. The show is mythical in the sense that it follows the story of an ancient myth and is highly stylized in its dialogue and movement. It’s physical because we’ve combined a variety of movement styles like dance, acrobatics, yoga and fight choreography tell the majority of the story.
MM: When exactly did Greek myth and theatre in Kamloops bump into each other?
AGC: Funnily enough, Melissa Thomas – the co-creator of this project – and I came up with the idea for Perseus & Andromeda in Victoria last year while we were at the Victoria Fringe Festival with The Untold Tales of the Brothers Grimm. We both have a love of physical theatre and Greek mythology and this idea sparked between us and sort of lit a flame that would eventually become this show.
MM: Let’s talk about your collaboration. How long have you two worked with one another?
AGC: This show is a collaborative creation in the truest sense of the words. Melissa and I started working together in the summer of 2013 when she cast me a play she was directing for Project X Theatre. Since then we’ve sort of taken turns being the director for each other on projects with various companies and have created a number of collaborative works together. We balance each other out really well. We both have a lot of movement training to bring to the table. I’m a dance instructor and choreographer, she’s a movement coach and fight director.
So after we had the idea for the show in Victoria last summer we came back to Kamloops and started working on the project immediately, so it’s been a year in the making. Each of the four artists working on this project – besides Melissa and I, we are also bringing Nich Gulycz and Maddison Hartloff, both of whom are Kamloops-based artists – bring so much to the table and we’ve worked as a collective to build the show together.
MM: What’s the biggest challenge this time around?
The nature of the show itself is very challenging and has really been forcing us to flex our theatre muscles. All four of the artists on the project come from a background in theatre so creating a show where the majority of the story is told through movement and physicality is extremely different. We’ve really had to stretch our imaginations to find different ways to tell this story. Because of this, I believe we’ve created something new and interesting and I’m very excited to see what people think of it.
MM: The word fragments comes up a lot in your press release, both to describe what remains of Euripides work and the myriad of styles you’ve brought together to make the work. Can you tell me more about the creation process for this and how you brought the fragments together?
AGC: Let’s go back to Euripides briefly to answer this one. He was attributed to writing 95 plays, more than any of his contemporaries, but over the millennia bits and pieces of his plays were lost, leaving the plays fragmented, like all playwrights of the time. The process for creating Perseus & Andromeda started with the idea of adapting Euripides’ fragmented play Andromeda. Because of our passion for physical theatre, we decided to take the fragments of this lost tragedy and fill in the blanks using movement, acrobatics, dance, music, fight choreography and a bit of new text.
So we’ve created a mosaic of theatre styles that tells one story that really resonated with us. Our team has combined its talents of playwriting, choreography, fight direction, acrobatics, sound design and even yoga to bring this ancient myth back to life for a contemporary audience.
MM: Why should audiences come and see Perseus & Andromeda?
AGC: The show is full of interesting styles of movement that we’re bringing together in a new way to tell an old story. We’ve got everything from dance and acrobatics to yoga and fight choreography. We’ve taken traditional ancient Greek styles of acting and infused them in our show. We have a large range and variety of music. This show is teeming with interesting things to watch and on top of that, we’re telling an amazing story that people will really love.