Amelia, With No Prior Knowledge, Liveblogs The Iliad- Almeida Theatre and British Museum

by ameliareviews


Today, 14th August 2015, the Almeida Theatre and the British Museum have launched, with the help of 50 performers, a mammoth reading of the whole of Homer’s Iliad, the tale of the Trojan War. Beginning at 9am at the British Museum and then moving at 8pm to the Almeida Theatre in London. The whole thing is due to span 16 hours. I switched on at 10am and to be honest have struggled to move from the screen since. I therefore thought I would take advantage and liveblog the entire epic experience. (I am unemployed and it has not stopped raining all day, what else was I supposed to do?) I have one problem, I have absolutely no idea what is going on. So this could be interesting for me and for you guys.

12.38pm- Kate Fleetwood (who is about to star in Medea at the Almeida) takes to the stage. I wandered off and missed the guy before and therefore have no idea what’s happening. So it’s a strong start. It seems that Hera and Zeus seem to be having a fight about the battle that is currently going on. According to @iliadlive (the extremely useful Twitter account that is telling people what is going on) what is actually happening is that Hera and Athena are off to intervene in favour of the Greeks. Fleetwood giving a really powerful and rousing battle speech as Hera. Fleetwood is certainly one of the most dynamic readers we have seen so far, her performance is so involving and spirited, with snarling and a really fantastic war like voice.

12.58pm- We are getting a story about someone’s wife who had a massive crush on someone called Beleraphon (I think) She is a slippery so and so, brought to life beautifully by Noma Dumezweni.

13.04pm Glaucus is a numpty. He just traded gold armour for bronze. I can’t see this ending well for him

13.04pm Scott Handy takes to the podium. Hector is having a fight with his mum, who is trying to get him pissed with honeyed mellow wine. Hector is now making his mum sacrifice 12 heifers. Handy is making really excellent use of the echoes in the Great Hall at the British Museum, yelling to the gods with his head held high. It really is atmospheric. I am tempted to get on a train and make my way down there.

13.15pm Andromache, via Handy’s excellent performance, making a really emotional plea to her husband Hector to stop him from being killed. Which is a reasonable request, all things considered. Hector, because he is a bloke and a warrior, is refusing to listen to her and tells her he’s going to keep on fighting.

Rory Kinnear

                                    Rory Kinnear

13.20pm- One of my personal favourites, Rory Kinnear, takes to the stage now, telling the story of Andromache. My mum rang and now I’m behind again but Hector and Paris seem to be on the war path.

13.23pm- Apollo and Athena, being on different on sides, are pissed off with each other and are having a fight about it by a tree.

13.26pm- Hector is off to do some single combat. The second one of the story so far. They are deciding champions. Kinnear is a really great storyteller, I’m hanging on his every word.

13.29pm Oh man Menelaus is getting involved again. He, as a wimp, is being strongly advised against it by Agamemnon. Sensible. (I am caught up now and so very involved in this. It’s like Game of Thrones but Greek)

13.32pm- I really really applaud all of these performers because these names are bloody hard to say. None of them seem to have stumbled so far.

13.33pm By a lottery Ajax has been picked to fight. Kinnear making the audience giggle with his over dramatic praying.

13.36pm Kinnear is one of my favourites. His swaggering Ajax is really wonderful. I’m jealous I’m not in the room right now, the atmosphere seems to be electric.

13.46pm- It’s John Simm now, who seems to have a brace in or something because his s’s are VERY over pronounced. (Also I zoned out for a minute and I’m lost again. There is a recurring theme here)

13.53pm- the Greeks are building a trench which, according to the Iliad Live twitter is going to be important later on. Poseidon is annoyed that the Greeks are doing this, mainly because there hasn’t been any cow sacrifice to them. Also Zeus is now getting revenge on them by creating a massive thunderstorm. Zeus is a dick.

13.57pm Katie Brayben takes to the podium now. She’s the first lady we’ve had in a little while, which is interesting given that she is performing as Zeus, who as usual, is being a knobhead. Athena is telling him what for now. Good on you gal.

14.02pm Oh dear, Zeus has got it in for the Greeks now. Katie Brayben has a lovely soft voice. It’s so soporific, like proper bedtime story style story telling.

14.10pm Jonathan Slinger is REALLY going for this battle talk, I love it. He’s shaking the lectern and everything, it’s very engaging watching. One thing that is very interesting is the different pronunciations that people are going for, for words like Diomedes.

14.13pm- Slinger is certainly the most swaggering performer I have seen yet, I love him. The way he is filling the Great Hall with his voice is fantastic, the frustration of Tuecer is palpable.

14.23pm Slinger as Zeus is a slimy, gloating arsehole and it’s wonderful viewing. I am really loving all the bits with gods being shits. And by gods, I mean Zeus because he is king shit. Also he just called his wife Hera a bitch. It’s just got catty up in here. Oh man, now Slinger’s bit is finished. That was fantastic, snaps for Jonathan Slinger

John Heffernan

                                 John Heffernan

14.45pm- It’s John Heffernan now who has the most storyteller voice I have ever heard and I’m defo going to fall asleep. Also one of the only things I know about the Iliad is that Achilles and Patroclus well fancy each other. Now they are talking about their roast dinner. I’m starving, this is so not cool.

14.57pm- Odysseus is trying to convince Achilles, who is cross about something, to come and join the fight against Hector, mostly by offering him women and gold. John Heffernan continues to have a beautiful, lilting voice and is doing a fantastic, convincing job.

15.04pm Apparently the women of Greece are a wonder. That is the second time they’ve said that. Heffernan continues to be beautiful as Phoenix, appealing in such a heartfelt way to Achilles. It’s a bit of a tearjerker to be honest.

15.17pm John Heffernan has just finished, after what might have been the longest single reader we have had yet.

15.18pm Deborah Findlay takes to the lectern now but I can’t help but think that every time they change readers one of them is going to start ‘And in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God unto the city of Galilee’ in the manner of a school carol concert. FIRST COUGH KLAXON.

15.45pm I haven’t written anything in a while, I have been engrossed by Tim Hutton’s reading. Dolon the spy got it in the neck (literally) by Odysseus and Diomedes and now there is some more fighting going on. But then that is what happens when you are listening to a story about a war. They’ve taken Dolon’s armour, which seems to be somewhat of a big deal.

15.54pm We now have splattering brains. Lovely. And there is just generally a great amount of death. This seems like a good time to take a lunch break. I shall be back soon where inevitably I will have missed loads and not have the foggiest what is going on.

17.13pm I’m back from lunch and IT’S OLIVER CHRIS. I like Oliver Chris, he made me cry laughing in One Man, Two Guvnors. As expected, I have a limited grasp on what is going on. There seems to be some carnage and some very shiny shields. I shall consult the Oracle or The Iliad Live twitter and find out what’s going on.

17.16pm There’s a battle, it’s all very confusing. But a Trojan has just got shanked and died I think.

17.31pm I’m really hoping that I haven’t missed the bit with the Trojan horse because everyone knows that is the best bit. (I’m still very confused. Hector seems to be off to battle again. There are an awful lot of battles. Oh wait Paris isn’t dead yet, that’s good) Also Luke Thompson, who is reading right now, is very handsome. And I’m impressed with myself that I got this far without mentioning someone’s looks.

17.48pm OOOOOOH Hera’s getting herself all dolled up. Methinks this will not end well for the Trojans. It’s got saucy up in here now. Also Hera’s plan to shag Zeus into sleep is so brilliant, I love Greek myths. Horny buggers.

17.53pm I love that everyone is won over by being offered a hot woman. Sleep, you flighty so and so, one mention of a Grace and you go all gooey eyed.

17.54pm Michael Shaeffer is milking the sauciness of Hera and Zeus and it is fabulous. He certainly has the voice for sexy scenes between gods, one might describe it as honeyed. Rather like all this mellow wine they keep talking about.

18.05pm There has been more spearing of people and more death but Zeus has just woken up so I reckon it’s all about to go down.

18.07pm Wow Zeus is pissed that he thought with his penis and slept with Hera. And he’s blaming her for it. Zeus is such a numpty

18.13pm Jenna Russell as an anguished, grieving Ares is doing a fabulous job. And now as Pallas Athena, equally good.

18.16pm I like the fact that each reader has to put their script into the box at the end of their part. It gives a lovely visual representation of how far through we have got. I hope they are going to have a similar box at the Almeida.

18.25pm Aaah the trench that was important has returned. It seems to be important.

18.27pm It is so easy for the Iliad to be the smuttiest thing ever, what with all the talk of penetration, shafts and spears. Which is difficult for someone like me, who has the maturity level of a ten year old.

18.32pm I once had to study a Victorian statue of Teucer, it was beautiful and had some really great copper musculature. Hector is gonna get Teucer now though, he is done for. It’s another rousing, war like performance from Forbes Masson. The quality of all of these readings is so high, no one is just phoning their reading in.

19.01pm And now I break for dinner. We have one hour remaining of the British Museum cast when the livestream for everyone ends, I believe as the Almeida section can only be seen by those at the theatre.

19.33pm I have returned for my last fifteen minutes into what seems to be a death scene. I am not sure whose, I shall find out. Oh wait it was Patroclus. Oh dear, Achilles is REALLY not going to be happy about this. Julian Glover is another with a beautiful storyteller voice, reverberating so well around the Great Hall.

19.50pm And with that the British Museum section of the Iliad ends, with Julian Glover epically recounting the furious battle to return Patroclus’ body to Achilles. From the unseen voice that just issued from the live stream, we will be able to watch the section from the Almeida. I, however, am off out but hopefully will be able to pick it up upon my return.

19.55pm The stage at the Almeida is beautiful, all candle lit. I’m excited.

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00.01am I have returned to find that this behemoth of a production is still running. Having consulted with the Iliad Live twitter it would appear I have missed the death of Hector and the return of Patroclus’ body to Achilles. But surprise surprise I STILL have no idea what is actually going on. I also have missed Ben Whishaw which I am slightly gutted about. But I join the end of the Games Because Patroclus Is Dead and Achilles seems to be having very homoerotic thoughts about him, especially as he is longing for Patroclus’ manhood *giggles* (I’m sorry. Achilles is clearly suffering badly. But COME ON)

00.05am Lovely Susannah Fielding is reading now, in a very pretty necklace. The set is so beautiful, apparently it is the set of Bakkhai which I was so gutted that I didn’t get tickets for. It would appear that Thetis and Iris are off to get Zeus to make Achilles give Hector’s body back to them.

00.10am Achilles is still raging. He basically hasn’t stopped being angry since the beginning so that is 16 hours of pure, undiluted RAGE

00.23am Priam, father of Hector, it would appear is appealing to Zeus to get Hector’s body back off Achilles. Lesley Manville is reading, which quite frankly is dangerous because she is very softly spoken and I am definitely going to fall asleep on my keyboard. I have had quite a lot of cocktails and it’s late which is not helping with the sleepiness

00.28am Quite late on we are being introduced to Hermes, he of the flying sandals/expensive handbags (not really)

00.30am Priam, via Lesley Manville, is making a very beautiful, heartfelt plea for news of his son’s body and the state that it’s in. Which, it seems, is magical because it’s not decayed at all. But then Hector was much loved by the gods (I think. The gods loved lots of people, it’s so confusing) Oh no wait Hermes has confirmed that Hector was loved dearly by the gods. So that’s nice for him, even though he’s dead

00.32am Priam has turned up to get his son back with a wagon full of treasure. No wonder he just waltzed straight into Achilles’ camp.

Tim Piggot Smith, the final actor

                          Tim Piggot Smith, the final actor

00.34am IT’S THE LAST ACTOR LADIES AND GENTLEMAN. And it’s Tim Piggot-Smith who, like everyone else in this production, has a dream storyteller voice. I saw him play Prince Charles (or King Charles III as he was) He was very good (FUN THEATRE FACT THERE READERS)

00.36am Piggot-Smith is a good choice to play an older king. He is very regal.

00.37am Achilles and Priam are having quite a manly cry for all of the people that they liked that died. Which is quite a lot.


00.42am Achilles has handed back Hector’s body and is still really sad about Patroclus

00.44am Oh, they are having a roast dinner again. As it is Greece, I am hoping that they’ve got tzatziki  And Priam appears to have a crush on Achilles. There’s a lot of gazing at each other and talking of taking each other to bed. OOH EER

00.49am Piggot-Smith makes a very good hysterical, grief ridden woman. The woman is Cassandra, who we have not yet seen, who is a prophet. A fact which I knew because of Harry Potter. Never say I am not a cultured woman

00.53am This is actually really sad this bit with everyone being emotional over Hector 😦

00.55am Well Helen, it’s all very well being sad about Hector dying, especially given that this whole thing was basically your fault…. (too little too late love)

00.56am Piggot-Smith is imbuing every line now with a stunning sense of finality and ending. We are really getting the sense that this is drawing to a close. It’s spine tingling and beautiful.

00.57 And so the Trojans buried Hector, breaker of horses. And this shindig is OVER. I must say, despite never quite getting a grasp on what the hell was going on, that was a really astonishing day’s worth of theatre, something we are probably unlikely to see again. It kept me gripped for hours at a time, only interrupted when I had to eat, or go to the pub. I realise that this is nothing like one of my normal reviews but then this is nothing like a normal production I’ve seen so the two go hand in hand. And so, with that, I leave you with this sentiment….

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