Greater Londonposted/updated: 13 May 2012 -
The World Premiere of
Olympus The Musical - A Race against Time
Ian Rae and Chris Chambers
performance date: 09 May 2012
venue: Ashcroft Theatre - Fairfield Halls, Minack theatre Cornwall
reviewer/s: Steve Rikard (Sardines review)
It’s not every day you get to see the premiere of a new musical written around the biggest worldwide event of the year – London 2012 Olympics.
Using such a big event as the vehicle for your story is a very bold move – but one which has certainly paid off for the Good Company and audiences alike.
Olympus the Musical: A race against time tells the story of 100m icon and British gold medal favourite Dimitry Raphael being struck by lightning during the Olympic ceremony rehearsal and consequently transported to Ancient Greece at the time of the very first Olympics. Dimitry goes through a journey and echoes of his life lead him to learn about himself and face moral decisions in true classic Greek Tragedy style.
This ambitious project by the Good Company in many ways mirrors its Olympic subject matter. It has some notable backing - although I’m sure there were some doubters, it is a huge spectacle, it focused on using the strengths of the community and it thoroughly entertained the public
It’s an inspiration to have a musical written locally and starring some of the best local performers including Coda and Croydon Stagers. It was brilliant to see the stage filled with talent and I was amazed by the strength and depth of cast, with around 20 all singing parts and a strong chorus of Athenians and Spartans remaining. It was especially nice to see a wealth of young performers among the cast.
My foremost congratulations must go to the Director Chris Chambers and Musical Director Ian Rae for tackling this huge cast, I’m sure at times it seemed daunting but it was a challenge most definitely met. The placing of all the scenes were exemplary, the choreography and movement only heightened the mood and atmosphere of the big numbers, in particular the title number Olympus. It’s always difficult to stage fight scenes, but these were all thought out and performed well. My only slight criticism would be that on occasions there were some unnecessary ballet dancers floating around, but this really didn’t detract from the overall spectacle.
The main characters all pulled off their parts believably, sucking the audience into an emotional story. Neil O’Gorman and Elaine Hartley conveyed the emotions of two pained lovers brilliantly. The Greek gods, particularly Kevin Hayes all had stage presence and voices to match their titles. Keith Robertshaw and Ziggi Szafranski represented the powerful Athenians with true stature, and Glyn Williams and James Caldwell played the hardened Spartans well. Jennie Fox had a lovely tone to her voice if at times she did lack some strength. A special mention has to go to Michael Hall for his outrageous performance of Asclepios and for me Niki Davarias as Maia really struck a chord.
The production team of Olympus must also be congratulated. Staging a spectacle of a musical in Ancient Greece must have presented problems, but the inventive use of trucks and projection ensured scenes were changed seamlessly and the audience focused on the most important part: the action. It only added to the sense of drama using real fire on stage and the lighting in particular was spot on.
The story occasionally staggered and lacked flow, but that is part of the process of developing a new musical and I have no doubt all kinks can be ironed out. If I’m totally honest the rebel in me wished for a twist in the classic Romeo and Juliet love story, but there is good reason for it to stay the same; quite simply it works. If the Good Company are looking to take this production further it could be very useful to get a dramaturg on board.
I can think of no better place to stage Olympus than the ambient Minack Theatre, Cornwall and would recommend that everyone goes and sees this spectacular show.
Congratulations, you have done justice to the Olympic legacy.