Prometheus Bound (Io’s Version)

Aug 13 2022 | By More

★★★☆☆      Frustrating

theSpace on the Mile (Venue 39): Sun 7 – Sat 27 Aug 2022 (odd dates)
Review by Hugh Simpson

An almost wilfully uneven recasting of Greek myth, Prometheus Bound (Io’s Version) – from New Celts and Myths Unbound at theSpace on the Mile – fascinates and exasperates in almost equal measure.

After an intriguing piece of physical theatre (choreographed by Sarah Michelle Ault), the play soon settles into a retelling of the fate of Prometheus, who stole fire from Zeus to give to humanity, and was subject to torture as a result.

Gunnar Bjercke and James Hay. Pic: Myths Unbound

It has to be said that the first half of the production is something of a mess. Playwright Kira Mason seems unsure how much of the background to the story the audience can be relied upon to know, or how much they can take of such old stuff without being spoon-fed contemporary parallels.

Hugely ill-judged jokes and references to Lord of The Rings or Game of Thrones abound, there is a great deal of fiddling with masks, stamping, shouting and clanking of chains, and it is all distinctly headache-inducing. It may be an attempt to evoke the grandeur and power of classical drama, but it comes off as sloppy.

Worst of all, there is a joke whose whole point is that one of the gods is a figure of fun, not because of anything he says or does, but just because he has a Scottish accent. I mean, really?


Then, miraculously, it all settles down. The chorus of Ault, Andrea Linhova and Madeleine Lily Ellis stop trying to be portentous and start to interact with the audience. Gunnar Bjercke’s Prometheus stops trying to be So Terribly Significant and becomes more of a character. James Hay’s twin roles of Hermes and Hephaestus start being differentiated by more than accent.

The reason for this switch is that – as promised – we suddenly get Io’s story. Io, the exiled priestess and unwanted object of Zeus’s attentions who is fated to be the ancestor of Prometheus’s rescuer, is excellently played by Alyssa McGuire as someone without agency, a victim of the patriarchy that even the luckless Prometheus exemplifies.

Suddenly the modern relevance is crystal clear without any lame quotes from A Few Good Men or quips about Google Maps. Mason’s writing becomes limpid and expressive, and it all means something. It is a shame it takes so long getting there.

Edoardo Berto’s direction also changes to reflect this shift, and the over-assertive, over-eager first half is largely forgotten. It is clear that Io’s story is the one that Mason wants to tell – that demands to be told, and the pointless sound and fury of the first half is redundant.

Running time: One hour 10 minutes (no interval)
theSpace on the Mile (Space 3), 80 High St, EH1 1TH (Venue 39)
Sunday 7 – Saturday 27 August 2022 (odd dates only)
Odd dates only: 16:45
Information and tickets: Book here.

Company website:
Instagram: myths.unbound
Twitter: @Myths_Unbound

Gunnar Bjercke, James Hay and Alyssa McGuire. Pic Myths Unbound


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