Kirsten Brandt brings a modern retelling of Iliad to the stage with shows being staged all week
The play is directed by US-based playwright Kirsten Brandt and is performed by Patty Gallagher and Jake Sorgen
There are two major ancient Greek epic poems that have been attributed to Homer. One is Odyssey while the other is Iliad. There might only be a handful of such poems that have had a lasting impression on its readers. Therefore, it was only fitting for Kirsten Brandt, a US-based playwright and theatre director to bring forth her production An Iliad to the city. Performed by Patty Gallagher and Jake Sorgen, the performance is a modern retelling of the Trojan War, which is accompanied by a live score. We speak to Kirsten to find out everything you need to know about the upcoming performance in the city.
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“We will be performing a solo show of Homer’s Iliad, but with a musician. It has been adapted from Robert Fagel’s translation. There were some more different translations, but Fagel translated a lot of different ancient Greek texts and he’s one of my favourite translators. He’s now long gone. But Lisa Peterson, who is a director and Dennis O’Hare, who’s an actor-writer as well, adapted it many years ago. The piece is about a poet coming and looking at the audience and saying: I’m going to have to sing the song again, the song of rage and war and glory and the waste of war and I have to sing it again because it keeps happening. And in the course of this story, she needs help and she calls on the muses and the muses don’t answer her at first. And then eventually they do. And that is when the musician comes and joins her,” begins Kirsten.
Lisa and Dennis have condensed the performance to its essence and brought in a contemporary way of viewing it. “So, the poet is constantly saying, oh, you don’t know about these places in ancient Greece, but let me tell you about these places, say in the United States and bring it to the present moment,” she adds.
Talking about how the performance has been made to suit the current context, Kirsten reveals, “A lot of that is through the text, the way Lisa and Dennis adapted it. The construction of the performance, as the poet comes out and looks right at us and says, we should be in a bar. I should be telling this story sitting at a bar, having a drink. It’s a direct audience address and she connects completely with the audience, I think that lifts it in such a way that instead of feeling like we’re distant and we’re watching a play and we’re being polite audiences, we’re pulled right into her need to tell us and our need to hear it. That makes it very contemporary. And also some of the references. She talks about supermarkets, she talks about road rage. But she does take like, oh, this is archaic. Let me bring that to where you’re at.”
The show also has some moments of humour. Even though the story is all about war, Patty has added some bits that will take away a bit of seriousness from the play. “You’re not going to laugh every five minutes, but you can’t just keep talking about war for 90 minutes and talking about death. So, there’s some really funny and beautiful moments,” she adds.
When asked about the difficulties she faced while working on the piece, Kirsten says, “When you are working on a solo piece like this, it is physically taxing. My job as a director is also to help my actor. I always see a director’s job as a sculptor. I’m helping to sculpt the performance of the actor. So, the exhaustion of actively watching is something directors have to look out for. But for me, it’s making sure there are a lot of distinct differences between when Patty’s playing Agamemnon, who’s the king of the Greek army and when she’s playing Achilles, who is young and more youthful, what the body language is and being able to track that. That’s one of the most difficult things about solo shows. Making sure I’m not over rehearsing for a moment because I have one actor.”
INR 500. November 3, 7.30 pm. November 4 & 5, 3.30 pm & 7.30 pm. November 7-10, 7.30 pm. November 11 & 12, 3.30 pm & 7.30 pm. At Jagriti Theatre, Whitefield.