The play begins! No fanfare, no lowering lights, no sudden hush. In the midst of people settling into their seats, finishing off their conversations and easing into chilled anticipation, actress Debbie Korley glides onto centre stage, speaking as she comes, and Beowulf begins.
Whether child, teen or adult, you’re immediately struck by this somewhat petite, Afro-Caribbean presence with the broadest of Huddersfield accents who declares herself ‘King’ in a voice that penetrates to the deepest core of our imagination. Every character portrayed by the lone actress is done with a committed, believable strength, no other cast neither needed nor missed. At the end of the play I thought we were just at the beginning, so was I gripped by the storytelling which was both believable and organic.
The underlying pulse of Rock with the introduction of the guitar-playing ‘monster’ only aided in keeping this most ancient of poems modern and the sense of danger tangible. The set is a simple concoction of blacks and chromes reminding me of liquid metal, the perfect backdrop to a striking costume of studs and blue jeans. From the outset, this play was intentional. From the female warrior King with a very unaggressive accent, to the tenth century rhythms set to twenty first century rock, you could appreciate the effort that Director, Justine Audibert and playwright, Chris Thorpe had taken to ensure the play was relevant to a modern day audience of all ages.
‘Beowulf’ starts with the question, “… was I a good king?” – and by the end of this journey, the answer is quite simply, YES!
When Justin Audibert took on Chris Thorpe’s heroic translation of Beowulf, you expected you would be in for something that was slightly off beat, not the norm, exhilarating, daring and poignant – and they did not disappoint!! Beowulf is a hugely gripping play with a cast of one.
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