Theatre Review: An Iliad - Auckland -29th May 2019

Photo Some Bizarre Monkey

Photo Some Bizarre Monkey

An Iliad

Herald Theatre, Aotea Centre, Auckland

Wednesday 29th May 2019

By Megan Moss

Stage time 7:30 pm came and went. The audience were getting chattier and louder, immersed in their own conversation, somewhat unaware that, in doing so, we were perhaps setting the tone akin to a busy tavern or café; a place of gathering. An unassuming entrance of ‘The Poet,’ Michael Hurst, from the street exit at Auckland’s Herald Theatre, Aotea Centre went unnoticed at first.

We might have been in a broken-down meeting place of a sort; somewhere bleak now and nearly forgotten. Stark white lighting, everything tired, yet possibly on the verge of revival, if someone invested the time. An old table, a desk, some old scraps of wood leaning up against the wall, a ladder, paint pots, spilt paint marks on the floor, some old broken dusty objects of no consequence, all cast aside forgotten and left to fade to dust.

The shabbily dressed man with sharp mournful eyes, in an old coat, holding a battered suitcase regarded the still talking audience with a hint of disdain, perhaps at their ignorance. The audience, suddenly noticing the poet silently standing in front of the door shaking his head, hushed quickly…  

The poet tired, unsure if he could remember all (or even wanted to) burst into a frenzied narrative, commanding the attention of all as he began a woeful tale of ultimate doom.

Setting the scene the poet described the beauty of ancient Greece and Troy. The warring men, the gods of old, beautiful woman and people; we were instructed to just imagine… With gusto the poet called out for a muse to assist in telling a tale; “please”…he cried “don’t make me do this on my own!”  Hurst was finally joined by his muse, Shayne P Carter.

To dimming lights, Carter walked quietly across the stage to a dark corner with a guitar, arrangements of peddles and synth ammongst the mess, with little volume, never overtaking Hurst’s incredible vocal ability to lift or quiet his voice as he slipped from one character or persona seamlessly; sometimes breaking back to address the captive audience with mutterings and open reflections  at times humour. Carter’s music at first, set an eerie reverberated low tone, drawing you into an imagining; sometimes lifting the poet’s voice booming like a jolt, looping and layering just enough. The lights dimming, with floor spots, now cast huge shadows on the wall behind. The room temperature seemed to drop, adding a feeling of impending doom.

Homers Iliad, a power struggle between Achilles and King Agamemnon. The ensuing gathering of great and mighty war heroes to retrieve the beautiful Helen, taken away by the handsome Paris, crescendoing to the final fall and loss of the mighty and small alike. The emotions conveyed by Hurst & Carter are brilliantly brought to life in a performance that was well deserving of its standing ovation.

So, the tragic tale was relayed, of a great battle of ego,  hearts and mind, resulting in the death of a once mighty civilisation. Hopefully this will be the last time the poet needs to tell this story. Hurst impressively recounts great battles and wars, well beyond the time of the Trojan, bringing us into the present; we are made aware, the outcome is always the same, do we see? Maybe we shall learn a lesson this time.

Hurst flawlessly articulates the impressive narrative with such fever and intensity, an utterly spellbinding performance.  The re-imaging of Homers An Iliad is immersive, compelling, reflective, chilling, simply brilliant and deserves much acclaim.

One must listen to feel the sheer weight of this tale for a few days.


Poet/Storyteller: Michael Hurst

Muse: Shayne P Carter

Director: Jonathon Hendry

Writer Credits: Lisa Peterson, Denis O’Hare

All Photos by: Some Bizarre Monkey