IF YOU have ever delved into the 3,000 line epic poem Beowulf and been left stumped by its contents, a new play telling the story in blockbuster fashion is the one for you.
Beowulf: The Blockbuster is coming to the Lime Tree Theatre this week, surfing a frenzied wave of no less than six five star reviews at last year’s Edinburgh Fringe Festival. The story and Bryan Burroughs’ performance have both won rave reviews and the actor, who also wrote the piece, uses a wonderful plot device of distilling the tale of the Scandinavian hero into the story told between father and son.
Directed and developed by David Horan, the play has been variously described as gripping, witty, poignant and vastly entertaining, a “triumph of a play that reminds us that life is not about how we die, but about how we live”.
Burroughs - an immensely experienced actor- says the play “mattered to us and we hoped it was good, and it spoke to us, but you just don’t ever think it is going to speak in that way to everyone.
“The kind of sweeping, unanimous embracing of it took us by surprise, but it made us work even harder than to keep the standard of the show up, so we became passengers on it as well,” he says of himself and Horan.
“Which isn’t to say that we didn’t know what we were at, but we were surprised by how much it was taken on, it has been really lovely,” he adds.
Emerging from the Dublin Fringe Festival, it was taken on by producer Pat Moylan and is set to tour to Australia after appearing in Limerick.
A father and son relationship - both played by Burroughs - provided the “initial spark”, he says, but after searching through Irish mythologies, he realised the tale of Beowulf was what he needed to cast his message.
“Because of their inability to communicate well with each other, the father needs a story and out of that, he can possibly pull together the strands of what he needs to say to his son,” he says.
“So that was clear, and I knew what I needed them to deal with, but then came the question of what story was out there to fit that. And it was helpful to have something that people have a relative connection with,” he adds.
He continues: “The father is a bricklayer, so it is told from his point of view to his son, who is a film fanatic, therefore it has to be told in such a way that he finds filmic, exciting and action filled, and is far from anything to do with relationships or adult themes, he has no interest in, so the father has a real struggle to get that across.
“The audience are with the father for a lot of it, watching the son gradually come into awareness and understanding of what is really at stake. You don’t need to have had any connection with Beowulf as a piece of literature to engage with the play at all.”
- Bryan Burroughs stars in Beowulf: The Blockbuster, in the Lime Tree this Thursday, February 19. See www.limetreetheatre.ie.