Review By Thomas Gregory
It’s the year 2008 and Apollo is getting old. After suffering childhood abuse in refugee camps, and a series of abusive relationships throughout the decades, he is cautious about any new connection. However, after being swept off his feet by the younger, married Achilles, he finds himself dragged into a love that is both passionate and unhealthy.
Achilles, for his part, feels trapped in the cultural expectations of the Greek community. He cannot bring himself to leave his wife, hides his homosexuality from everyone, and takes his frustrations out on his lover.
The tragedy of the tales comes from its predictability, as the men present the results of their past trauma, learn little, and suffer for it.
Luke Icarus Simon’s play is a look at love and suffering, touching on the themes of xenophobia, homophobia and abuse. In his performance of Apollo, Simon shows how committed they are to the story of this protagonist, and how passionately they care about the story constructed. Apollo’s pretentious need to over-reference literature and inability to say one word when ten will do can sometimes grate on the audience as much as on Achilles, offering up a character you can both empathise with and feel frustrated by.
Kostas Moutsoulas offers us the character of Achilles as a closed-off man, not at all comfortable with his sexuality or the dishonesty in which he lives his life. Achilles is scared of becoming his father, but not to the point of doing something about it. While Kostas presents the appearance of a physically strong but emotionally weak partner, there is animalism to the character that does not appear in the performance.
With two actors that do their best to fall fully into their role, it is unfortunate that there is little chemistry between them. For a play that centres entirely on this relationship (with no other actors or roles present), this lack of spark between the two men is palpably noticed. The dialogue often reminds us that there is passion there, but it is passion never seen in the action. They both talk openly about the incredible sex they have, but not a single kiss is shared on stage
The set for this play is minimalistic, the primary piece being a mosaic that has been lovingly and carefully replicated from a real piece found in the Museum of Thessalonika. This carefully considered decision helps provide the audience with clear thematic clues, without distracting from the importance of the relationship unfolding before us.
The lighting of the play reminds us of Apollo’s dreams, and it sometimes really does feel like Mediterranean sunlight falling on the more positive moments of the drama. While some inclusion of music appears distracting, other sound-scapes, including the birds in the final scenes, ensure the audience is truly transported into the settings.
Besides the too-noticeable lack of on-stage chemistry between the stars, the biggest criticism of the play is in the writing itself. While the story of the two men is compelling, as is some of the structural framings of the tale, much of the dialogue comes across as too expository, and at no time is the audience treated as intelligent enough to not need an explanation. While at first the drawn-out dialogue of Apollo appears to be a character choice, the need for every detail to be explicitly explained, in words, becomes tiresome. When trying to convince Achilles that times have changed, Apollo could have said, “This is not the eighties”. Instead, we receive “This is not nineteen-eighty-three where homosexuality was illegal.” While this over-explained, lengthy version of the line may not be seen as an issue in isolation, consider an entire play in which this occurs.
The story could be told in ninety minutes but instead is drawn out for nearly three hours. Instead of leaving us touched by the violent story of abuse, and perhaps even empathising for the two men that were trapped by their past, we instead leave the theatre simply tired - tired of the predictable script told too slowly, and a relationship we are only ever told (not shown) was as dangerous as it was passionate.