After Gilgamesh

Modern and ancient Iraq are fused in this tale of war, dance and historic kingdoms.
Pegasus Theatre, Wed March 30th - Sat April 2nd 2011

March 30, 2011
After Gilgamesh
Pegasus Theatre, Wed March 30th - Sat April 2nd 2011
After Gilgamesh is an unusual new play by Jenny Lewis that maps the ancient story of Gilgamesh - the God-King of Uruk who lived around 2700 BC - onto the modern story of an Iraq war soldier who lies wounded in hospital in 2005. The author links these very different lives by forcing both characters to confront the loss of a close friend 

In the hands of The Pegasus Youth Theatre, this provocative play is rendered one part drama, one part dance and one part song. The adolescent troupe coped exceptionally well with the challenge of creating a unified piece out of three theatrical forms and I was impressed that every performer acted, dance and sang.

The choreography was intricate and the array of songs – ranging from Arabic songs of praise to raps - required demanding vocal dexterity. What’s more, under the guidance of Director Yasmin Sidhwa, the cast of 28 young actors and dancers helped design the set and produce the play, and the youngsters are to be congratulated for their outstanding contribution. Indeed, one of the play’s most inspiring scenes, in which the International War Cabinet were presented as characters from a video game, was an idea conceived entirely by the 13-17 year olds.

The standard of performance was high – every line and dance step had been meticulously learned, vocal harmonies were tight and scene changes swift and seamless. The young man who took the title role is to be applauded for his passionate and commanding portrayal of Gilgamesh. The actresses who took on the parts of the four Goddess sisters also deserve special mention, as does the talented youngster who stole the show as President Eagle.

The young cast did not shy away from difficult emotional themes, such as grief, or the psychological trauma of life in a combat zone, and rendered these big ideas with impressive sensitivity. Tackling an issue as contentious as the politics of the Iraq war would be a bold move for any theatre company, and the cast handled the play’s satirical take on ‘generation kill’ with maturity and understanding.

Displaying a striking theatrical adaptability, the actors performed comic scenes with equal success. The cast brought a youthful freshness to the performance, not only through contemporary references to Rihanna songs and ‘fit men,’ but by way of their boundless energy.

As the story flitted between the officer’s life as an active soldier in Iraq and the old world of Mesopotamia, the stories merged and the plot became difficult to follow in places. Nevertheless, the gutsy teens of The Pegasus Youth Theatre rose to the challenge of Jenny Lewis’s demanding and unusual play to create a provocative production that is by turns funny and heartbreaking, and stunning in its energy and professionalism.
I was left in a state of awe after seeing Pegasus Youth Companies' production of Jenny Lewis' new play After Gilgamesh. Based on the timeless The Epic of Gilgamesh, the piece, which was brilliantly performed by the cast, encompasses the themes of war, leadership, life and death in a most moving fashion - comparing the scenes portrayed in the ancient mesopatanian legend to the modern day war in Iraq.

Kim Tullar, who plays injured british soldier Captain Robbie Roberts in the modern day time frame, must be applauded for his moving performance in demonstrating the effects of war on those who are stuck in combat 'fighting' for their countries. The modern aspect of the play questions the real reasons for the conflict in the Middle East and poses the question of whether its really worth all the death and destruction. The responsibility of leaders is examined through the character of Ancient Mesopotamian God-King Gilgamesh - a commanding performance by James Roberts - who leads his people in to a war to exploit wood from Lebanon.

All in all, this piece was masterfully written, performed and directed; the projection of the actors, the tightness of the vocals and the stunning choreography really made this piece work and demonstrated the triumphant talent of Pegasus Theatre's Youth Companies. Bravo to Pegasus. The piece will be performed again on the 21st July at the Pegasus as part of the 'MESH International Youth Arts Festival' - well worth a watch!
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