Scandimania: Gods of Ice and Fire

Thu 31st July – Sun 10th August 2014


Zack Wellin

at 03:22 on 3rd Aug 2014



As might befit a show about the birth of a religion out of the ice, the key tenets of this performance are ostensibly minimalism and clarity. We enter the studio to seven kneeling figures in white forming a semicircle against a sheet of white snow camouflage. Over the course of the performance of a rambling Norse creation myth, they convey to us a multitude of objects and processes by means of a few props and some very creative physical theatre. We experience a stronghold, an ice giant, and a ship burial as composites of the various actors, a pole and some ladders. The variety is impressive, and certain scenes are beautifully executed; the movement of a salmon through water, for instance, is conveyed exquisitely with the help of two ropes. At certain times, however, this choreography is less convincing; though the cast are clearly well-rehearsed, some movements would be improved by increased fluidity, and as they cycle through leading and supporting roles, actors seem occasionally to lose focus when they believe they aren't in the spotlight. This is the difficulty inherent in the pursuit of minimalism; the simple glaring lighting doesn't direct our focus, so any minor flaw is easily spotted. The lack of any music, or much background noise from the ensemble serves to focus our attention on the narrator, yet often makes it difficult to generate atmosphere.

The second dimension of this show is the continuous verbal narrative which forms its backbone. Adapted by the director, Duncan Walthew, it is often plainly worded, and features some lovely unconventional poetic imagery, such as the description of how "gagged and bound on an island of his own lather", Fenrir, a monstrous wolf, awaits the end of the world, or the touching characterisation of Baldur as the "butt of the joke, soul of the party". At its best it invites comparison with Ted Hughes' Tales From Ovid, though at its worst, dialogue is facile. "You may be strong, but I am stronger" might be a typical example. At points it also seems counteractive to have attempted to fit in so much plot, as certain dramatic events are barely given time to occur, and the many names begin to blur together.

For a school production, the cast are impressive, and the main complaint I could make against them might be that they are occasionally overemphatic.

This production is unfocussed; it is a marriage of prose poetry and physical theatre, and while it is clearly ambitious in its pursuit of both media, it rarely excels at both simultaneously. There are moments of beautiful verbal and visual imagery, and I left with a good overview of some important tales from Norse mythology, but Scandimania is ultimately unable to fulfil its impressive ambition.


Lucy Diver

at 08:19 on 3rd Aug 2014



In the beginning, there was the word. And the word was Odin. And the word was told: told with voice, with body, in space, and in breath. Scandimania: Gods of Ice and Fire is a Norse myth cycle, through ensemble storytelling. Just seven cast members and one director get through the creation of the cosmos, the fortification of the gods’ kingdom Asgard, the binding of wolf-creature Fenrir, the death of the beloved Baldor, the binding of bad-guy Loki, and Ragnarok – the end of the world, where all bonds are broken and the world is consumed by chaos. It’s a lot to cover in an hour, but it’s covered competently.

This isn’t what you’d call ‘traditional’ or ‘easy’ theatre, but that suits me. Bodies swirl and whirl across the small space, portraying earthquakes, war and eight-legged horses. Narration switches between cast members, with snippets of dialogue mixed in. It might be easy to become confused, and particularly early on, there seemed to be too many names to keep track of, but the main characters became clear eventually. Splitting the episodes up with a rune frame device also helped, though the frame story itself seemed a little unclear. Although the ensemble were good, and worked well together, a few standout performances were Steve Moyse as Loki and Anna Crosby as the giant-builder.

The physical aspects are solidly choreographed. The bodies of these young actors are used in creative ways – for ice, birth, snakes and sea. Particularly notable is their precision in group work – it’s clear this physical work has been rehearsed again and again, and it’s paid off. All the movements are slick and timed to precision – the fight scenes are believable, and there’s even enough simulated danger (particularly in the binding of Loki, which reminded me a little of Chinese water torture) to make me bite my lip in worry.

As is common to Fringe shows, there were few props, but they were used to great effect. A couple of the more unusual uses: a ladder snapped shut like a cavernous jaw or laid down like the prow of a boat, ropes as entrails, a simple wooden stick as everything from mistletoe to a bier. Lights were interesting but not extraordinary – the classic trick of torches in the dark, as well as red light for fight scenes. The only set was a white backdrop, which worked well with the all-white costumes to create this minimalist retelling of myth. It occurred to me afterwards that music was absent, but I didn’t feel its lack during the show.

If you’re into Norse mythology, Game of Thrones, or dynamic, devised storytelling, you’ll have a great time. Swap the drizzle and humidity of the street for the ice and fire of the stage.


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