Been | An Illiad

Wednesday night at the Herald Theatre, a hippodrome filled with culture and history; an ancient tragic chronicle is brought to life, through a dramatic retelling of the ‘An Iliad’ – an epic saga of love, war and loss, first written by the infamous Ionian poet, Homer and reworked for the modern audience by Lisa Peterson and Denis O’Hare.

In this performance, directed by Jonathan Hendry, the weathered and tortured poet is played by the accomplished Michael Hurst .  He appears without warning, albeit unassuming and disillusioned, in the vanguard of a simple and slightly shambolic setting; possibly reflecting the state of mind of our poet and narrator.

Hurst’s ability to create imagery and background to a series of events that catapulted a monumental war, are seamless and superb.  He manages to transfix an entire audience, through his figurative language and dramatic expression, whilst recounting the fall of Troy and the role of the Gods.  The themes throughout the play: Fate, Kleos (glory), Hybris (time), pride & Menis (fury) drive the plot, in particularly the theme of fury ‘rage’ and how it becomes an addiction; fuelling the demises of many, but that is ultimately a vice of no positive consequence.

An Illiad cleverly contextualizes historic sequences, to provide relevance to the contemporary audience; referencing conflicts from the Archean age to current day.   Hurst is also brilliant, at providing some often needed comedic relief from the heavy subject of war, through perfectly weaved narrative.

Once Shayne Carter joins him on the stage and introduces us to his unique musical score, we see how this addition of audio somehow lubricates the poet’s memory.  From this point he becomes more lucid and frenetic.    Shayne’s eponymous style of music is the perfect accompaniment to the passionate and evocative story-telling of Michael Hurst.  The subtle metallic riffs, are fittingly moody and embody the essence of the play.  Creating urgency and chaos as we reach the most pivotal peaks of this epic.  The cleverly executed art direction is also vital to the success of this collaboration; the serpentine silhouette of musician and instrument, metaphorizing the shadow of Homers muse, is definitively striking.

With fierce passion and engagement with each character (embodied by respected artists) the journey draws to it’s fateful end . With Archilles lamenting the death of his dear companion Patroclus, the themes introduced to us: ‘pride, fury and time’ become ultimately, even more significant and poignant.

Two undeniable doyens of the New Zealand live art scene, Michael Hurst and Shayne Carter form an unlikely duo, which results in a truly powerful stage performance.

An ambitious, yet successful theatrical undertaking, ‘An Iliad’ is extraordinary work to see and  is brought to you by Auckland Live and ArtSense Productions.







An Illiad is currently showing at Herald Theatre – Aotea Centre:                                                                                                ~Wednesday May 29th – Sunday 9th June