"Drums. Drums and the Greeks..."
by remotegoat reviewer for remotegoat on 26/05/15

Four Of Swords are gaining a reputation for making imaginative use of unconventional spaces to host their productions, and Jason and the Argonauts is no exception. The venue is the long abandoned Rolle College building – now the Rolle Centre - in Exmouth. Four Of Swords makes brilliant use of this great space and the production provides a public launchpad for Rolle Exmouth LTD, who hope to re-open the building for community use.
The action ranges between a large hall or theatre and a galleried atrium; this is a promenade performance in which the audience stand, sit on the floor and walk between scenes. It’s both interesting and involving; making us feel part of the action, and particularly good for children. Some, however, may struggle with the lack of seating.
The story of Jason’s quest for the fleece is one of the best known epics of Greek myth, and its themes are vast and sweeping: lust, love – both familial and romantic, pride, jealousy and betrayal. The language in this adaptation is often more prosaic than the form suggests, this makes the action more accessible but does it rob the storytelling of some power?
In particular, the Argonauts themselves are very pantomime. They are an entertaining, comical crew providing light relief to counter the towering jealousy, pride and rage of Aeetes. This lightness provides emotional balance in the production but prevents the Argonauts from providing convincing dramatic opposition to the powerful king of Colchis.
The stand-out performance of the night was Charlie Coldfield’s wonderful Aeetes. He’s followed closely by Sam Pike who gives the potentially weak Absyrtos the power of reason and virtue. Sarah White’s Medea, while in ‘priestess mode’ occupies a plane between the mortal and divine; however the language of the dialogues often rob her of glamour. The bond between Medea and her brother Absyrtos is deep and convincing; far more convincing than her love for Jason, which lacks the power and passion necessary to fuel events to come. Ben Gilbert plays Jason with all the dashing charm of Cary Elwes in The Princess Bride, but lacks emotional depth and sincerity.
As one expects from Four Of Swords, design is both creative and wonderful. Worth special mention is the beautiful tree of the Golden Fleece. They also make great use of giant puppets and illustrated projections.
Naturally you want to know about the fight with the skeletal warriors; well, it doesn’t disappoint. Amazingly choreographed, it is just as memorable as the film version we know and love – and, for my money, more exciting.
I have in the past suggested that no drum solo can be too short, which might be harsh, but the opening salvo could really be half as long. More broadly the Taiko style drumming provides an atmospheric soundtrack and complements the action very well.
If you’re looking for an entertaining and intriguing evening of theatre that everyone can enjoy, and are happy to skate over the denser, more difficult aspects of the myth, this is highly recommended.

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