#30 Beowulf

Children's Show ( Theatre, Family, Devised ) Friesian, Underbelly Bristo Sq.

Shouty abridged telling of the old Beowulf myth, the legend of one of the great European heroes. A frame story of a girl, Sophie, and her mother battling cancer. Theme of bravery in the face of monsters.

Ambitious staging, cast of eight on a tiny stage with several fight scenes and a plethora of objects and settings. Intriguing, frequent use of Old English in narrative, with translation to follow.

Frame story is OK moving, if a bit of a mouthful to swallow. Professor mother and her little daughter share dialogue way too heavy and elaborate to feel natural. The actress playing the young girl is even too energetic and perky for a smart nine-year-old, who later grows older in a scene change. Other casting is winning, each actor a remarkably beautiful, strong featured professional. No small parts.

Sophie and Beowulf cross paths in the legend story in a slightly awkward way, but the story is condensed quite nicely. Beautiful lifts from the text, with the poem of the Mead Hall, and how we are all just birds passing through.

There is song and dance, in Old English to boot. Loud and energetic for the impractical stage. Great use of fabrics for effects and makeshift sets. Pro lighting and acting, with savvy, confident actors adjusting sets, clothes and even light fixtures after action sequences, without skipping a beat. A great devised dragon, with otherworldly shrieking sounds. Grendel and his mother equally winning.

And yet somehow it doesn't quite work. Weaving in and out of the frame story felt busy, probably due to the cramped staging. There was a lot more energy available than could fit on the stage at any one point.

For linguists and clever kids who are partial to a bit of fighting on stage.