RNT Cottesloe Theatre.
|Alan Howard on 'Kings'
Reviews: of 'Kings' at The Tricycle Theatre, Kilburn, April 1997
Although older than Homer, the spell is strong as ever. Its simple ingredients are a story, a narrator, and listeners.
Remarkable, in an era of special-effects allowing whole planets to explode before your eyes, and trickery so convincing that only a few generations ago, black magic would be the sole explanation.
Despite that, one voice and a towering tale still spur the imagination and keep an audience enthralled.
It helps, of course, that the voice is Alan Howard's. Casually dressed, almost diffident, he perches atop a sort of cake-stand arrangement on a stage bare apart from poet Christopher Logue's reading-table, pauses artfully......and the magic begins.
Kings is Logue's version of the best part of The Iliad, that Anger-of-Achilles bit as besieging Trojans* fall out over lust and loot, and up in Olympus, gods take sides in the squabble.
Logue preserves the sonorous rhythms of the original, while adding his own perceptions and embellishments: a sullen Homeric hero compared to Rommel after Alamein, an image of helicopter gunships thumping over the wine-dark sea. Such deliberate anachronisms, strictly rationed, are startling enough to illuminate the text.
Yet while he couldn't do it without Logue, who put words into his mouth and takes an occasional part, Kings is Alan Howard's triumph. Every character is defined, from wily Odysseus to anonymous groundlings.
It isn't one of those ultimately tiresome, thespian firework displays, however.
Howard thunders when appropriate, but salts the epic with wry humour, a lifted eyebrow mocking superhuman blowhards and rogues.
He, Logue and director, Liane Aukin have been working on this project since 1981, which accounts for the rightness of the staging.
*I think he means Greeks!!!
Daily Mail. 11.4.97.