Words by Gayatri Adi

Homer’s ‘An Iliad’, translated by Robert Fagles, was brought to life by Auckland Live and Artsense Production once again in 2019 at the Herald Theatre. A two man grand classic told by the Poet, played by Michael Hurst, and Muse Shane P Carter.

As I walked into the theatre it felt as if I was in the middle of a messy yet put together chaos of an old house being renovated. Scaffolding ladders of different shapes and sizes spread across the stage, planks of wood leading against the wall, opened and unopened paint tins lying on the ground and across the table on the left – set up with the equipment for the muse, Shayne P Carter to perform at.

Set realiser Kathryn Aucamp wanted to create a space between dismantling a previous set at Herald Theatre and building another set for the next show that would be held at the space – the Poet (Hurst) landing in this space, grounding the audience to tell his story and then leaving. A very old theatre-esq feel from the times of the Greek, and stories were told in public spaces where civic participation was encouraged. Through this set the audience felt like they were a part of the story as they were spoken to. The 4th wall was broken. The chaotic yet put together set represents the ruins of the Greek temples, connecting the story to its origins.

One would not have flourished without the other; it is a tag-team that is a must watch!

Hurst recites and brings to life the story of Achilles and Hector – or as the younger generation may know it, Troy (circa 2004) starring Brad Pitt and Eric Bana. Hurst’s dedication to mastering the text was phenomenal, and his character work was breath-taking. The Poet is the only character of this two man show that speaks throughout the nearly 2 hour long play – no rest for the wicked – and a few mistakes were made with swapping of the characters names which Hurst corrected quickly. But this made the story teller very human, relatable and grounding.

Hurst manages to switch in and out of about 9 or so different characters on stage while recounting his story, and it was marvellous to watch. The most memorable being that of Hermes, the Greek god and Helena, who allegedly is the reason why the whole war between the Spartans and the Trojans began. Throughout the show Carter remains in his corner on the left of the stage, with a 1-2 minute spotlight solo dedicated to his musical talent in the nearly 2 hour play. Carter and Hurst are both on stage for the entirety of the performance, and while Hurst takes centre stage, Carter provides the musical score that brings the story to life. The music was captivating, but never deviating the audience from the story teller. He wasn’t seen but sure was heard! One would not have flourished without the other; it is a tag-team that is a must watch!

Lighting design by Rachel Marlow was brilliant. It was craftsmanship which helped depict the emotions that the audience were meant to feel and felt when the Poet was telling his story. The only downfall for the experience would be its extended running time – at about two-thirds of the way through I kept glancing at my phone, wishing that it ended soon. A little trimming may have been advantageous, but Hurst was able to bring me back to the present when we sat down on his chair reciting the wars that had taken place since the Trojan War with great sadness.

Aleppo, Syria hit home for me as it is one of the greatest humanitarian crisis in history. It had me sitting there, feeling helpless, the way the Poet felt having lived through so much tragedy. There were elements within the story telling where the Poet tried to connect it back to 2019, but they were fleeting.

The use of stage space could’ve been better; it felt as if Hurst was moving within a 2 by 2 meter space, as if he was boxed up. But at the end of the day, the show was a very intricate yet effortless piece of work that hasn’t been seen in the Auckland theatre scene for a while.If you’re okay to stay seated for 2 hours to listen to classical masterpiece – a story born on the backs of gods and warriors delivered by the brilliant Michael Hurst and Shayne P Carter, then I would absolutely recommend.

If you’re okay to stay seated for 2 hours to listen to classical masterpiece – a story born on the backs of gods and warriors delivered by the brilliant Michael Hurst and Shayne P Carter, then I would absolutely recommend.

3.5/5 stars


What: An Iliad

Who: Michael Hurst & Shayne P Carter

When: 29 May – 9 June 2019

Where: The Herald Theatre

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