28 June 2010

Review: Heracles High 5

Heracles High 5
A is for Atlas
23 June 2010
Meat Market

A is for Atlas are another Melbourne independent company who are dedicated to exploring their unique theatrical voice. In Heracles High 5, director Xan Coleman and his team explore the nature of contemporary heroes and heroism and if we expect far too much of those we hold in esteem.

The laminated safety instruction cards and the airline hanger-like proportions of the gorgeous Meat Market set the scene for the Heracles High 5 trip. But our plane is actually a TV studio and we're ready for the filming of "Green and Gold Live". With screens that tell us when to applaud, sigh, cheer and declare OMG, and a host as enigmatic as Jules (Wes Snelling), it doesn't matter that the plane/TV studio metaphor seems a bit odd because the band is playing, Wes is singing and we've met super hot Heracles.

Heracles looks a lot like Michael Hutchence and sings like Nick Cave, so he could only be more of an Aussie rock hero if he donned hot pats and sang "I Should Be So Lucky". The lyrics were difficult to decipher, but there was enough about diggers and Lleyton Hewitt to let us know what the songs were about.

With an interview by Jules and questions from the 'audience', we learn that spunky Heracles has been every hero since his days in Ancient Greece, including Napoleon, Chuck Berry, John Cleese and a member of the Third Reich – and he's sick of it. He's sick of repeating the his five labours,  he's fed up with Zeus (dad) interfering and had enough of being an idle idol, so he's not denying news report that he's become a government mercenary.

Up to now, Heracles High 5 was so much fun and so original, that any lack of narrative drive was irrelevant.  Looking at the hero versus entertainer and the why folk who haven't done that much get the same label as those who define our universal myths and archetypes is enough to get our brains ticking over.  Then the plane crashed and Heracles had to shovel a lot of poo.  Literally.

The second half takes place on Christmas Island where Heracles repeats his labours and I have no idea why. Heracles ended the same bloke as he was at the beginning, so the labours were a waste of his time. Perhaps what was missing was the human in the hero. Heracles was part human, but this hero was cold, grumpy and dull. Sure he was good looking enough to pick up anyone, but one reason contemporary heroes earn their title is because they are likeable, because they are human.  While Heracles remained unapproachable, grouchy, short tempered and bored with everything, there was not reason for anyone to care what happened to him and I would have flown away without him.

This review appears on AussieTheatre.com.

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