Jason and the Argonauts

Review written by Flossie Waite
A Unicorn production
Reviewed at Unicorn Theatre
Performances until 21st October
For ages 6-12

In the sport of the Gods, people are just pawns; as Zeus and Hera battle it out, Jason is caught in the crossfire of their video-game competition. Selected as Hera’s ‘Player’, Jason isn’t really up for the challenge: he’s just an ordinary bloke who picks his nose and loves Topic bars. Valentina Ceschi and Thomas Eccleshare’s reinterpretation of Jason and the Argonauts is just about recognisable as the ancient Greek myth, whilst firmly avoiding stereotypical heroism – even muscle-man Hercules is brought back down to earth as a clean-eating vegan. The series of epic challenges and Jason’s ultimate mission – to win the Golden Fleece and become King of Colchis – are repurposed as a personal journey of discovery, one that results in a slightly syrupy realisation: a true champion needs compassion, courage and loyalty, and is nothing without his teammates.

jason 2.jpg

Image by Helen Murray

Jason (Dorian Simpson) assembles the Argonauts – all 85 of them – to join him on his adventure; it’s down to a descriptive rap, some very, very quick costume changes, and the accent capabilities of the remaining cast (Guy Rhys, Dylan Townley,  Valentina Ceschi) to depict as many of his crew as possible. There’s a fresh twist on each quest they face (or each ‘Level’ of the game), from boxing matches to a TV game show, though a lot is left to the audience’s imagination. Against a simple set of a few coloured ladders, clever lighting represents the giant opponent King Amycus, and we don’t see the Harpies themselves, but watch Jason and his friends dodge their massive green poos that fall from above. On the one hand, this might be a nice nod to the oral storytelling traditions that originally generated the myth, but it does mean that sometimes the staging feels a little lacklustre.

Huge efforts have been made to keep the action feeling contemporary, relevant and fun. Hera proves her unearthly powers by conjuring up Jason’s favourite meal, McDonalds, and while Medea is a grungy goth with purple dreds, Orpheus is a skinny hipster musician with huge hair and a new single he’s desperate to play. The ultimate pop-culture pay-off, though, is a certain move by the Argonaut army: it turns out young audiences love it when ancient Greek mythological characters dab, and are truly thrilled when these have-a-go heroes win the day.

Children’s Theatre Reviews exists to help plug the gap in criticism and writing about theatre for young audiences. It is run entirely voluntarily, and needs support to continue covering and supporting the sector. For more information and to help give children’s theatre the voice it deserves, please visit our Patreon page.

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