The Ring Cycles at the ScoopCultureTheatre
Amid all the wonderfully dry, canny and insightful humour of British theatre, Phil Wilmott’s simplistic, almost slapstick style of directing is hard to place, starting with his rather bland yet hyperactive production of Finian’s Rainbow earlier this year. The Ring Cycles is his fourth show of 2014, as actor, director or writer, so perhaps this is the reason behind the bare-boned, flatness of his shows. Overlong lines with a lack of tonal diversity can make The Ring Cycles’s three hours’ worth of theatre (with plenty of breaks) drag a little, and the eyes start to wander away from the little sunken amphitheatre. Luckily there is plenty to look at from the banks of the Thames, and with the sunset firing up the sky and bouncing off of the mighty Tower Bridge, any restlessness is quickly replaced by a transcendent peace that would simply love to watch the reenactment of Viking tales, thank you very much.
Aside from it’s paint-by-numbers simplicity, The Ring Cycles is a not so much thrilling as delightful, back-to-basics ode to the fantastical power of storytelling. The four mini-plays are adapted from Wagner’s epic opera Der Ring des Nibelungen, which in turn is loosely based on Norse sagas. In a nutshell, a ring of great and unimaginable power is stolen from its home among the Rhine maidens (think mermaids) by a spiteful troll, who in turn gets it stolen from him by Wotan, king of the gods, who needs it to pay off two giants who have his sister-in-law captive. From then on a series of fortunate and not-so-fortunate events occur that are all related to the greed for power and/or love – very child-friendly, fun and easy to engage with.
The cast are a wonderfully charming bunch, growling and prancing about as animals and encompassing some very humble heroes. It’s slow starting, but once in the groove you can’t help but get a little attached. The presence of costume and props is skillfully weighted, consistent with the simple, bold tone; the animal costumes stand out as a particular source of innovation and wonderment. Do stay until the end – there’s fire! Take children or a bottle of wine, kiss the sky for its blessing, don’t forget the blanket and you’ll have a magical evening. It’s free!
The Ring Cycles is part of More London’s Free Festival and is running until August 31st, for further information or to book visit here.