UFV Theatre opened its season by performing Argonautika, an adaptation of the story of Jason and the Argonauts on their voyage to reclaim the Golden Fleece written by Mary Zimmerman and directed by Colleen Lanki. The intimate nature of the small, thrust-stage style theatre ensured that the performers were capable of delivering a performance that immersed the audience and captured their attention for the nearly three-hour-long performance.
The actors put on a show that was excellently produced with nary a hiccup along the way. Scene transitions were sharp, and the actors proved to be more than capable of manipulating the emotions of the audience, as Argonautika flowed from comedic to tragic, much like the wine-dark sea upon which the crew of the Argo sailed.
The performers put their hearts and souls into bringing each character to life — the brashly overconfident Hercules (Russell Blower), the charismatic and dreamy Jason (Luke Steele), the quite literally love-struck Medea (Phaydra-Rae Gagnon), and the tongue-in-cheek, fourth-wall-breaking narrator, the goddess Athena (Heather Littlejohn). It was remarkably easy to get lost in the tale and become emotionally invested in those characters on a stage just a few feet away.
However, the play, like any production put on by students still learning their trade, contained moments of pure quality and marvelous potential, with some few instances where they maybe could have done better. Given the large cast of Argonautika, it was inevitable that the portrayal of some of the Argonauts would be less fleshed-out than others. But at times during the first half of the play, it appeared that Hercules was a more visible and more central character than Jason, as Hercules, by far the most commonly known Greek hero, was at the heart of some of the early obstacles faced by the Argonauts.
Ultimately, this rendition of Argonautika will most certainly entertain: “It’s got a bit of everything really, comedy, romance, even tragedy,” says theatre student and Argonautika assistant director Geneva Perkins. It will amuse you, and have your stomach aching from laughter, but it will also break your heart at points and make you weak at the knees at the ruthlessness of Greek tragedy. It will also make you walk out of the theatre thinking to yourself, “Man, Greek goddesses are jerks.”
Argonautika is playing until November 29 at the CEP campus. Tickets are available online at www.ufv.ca/theatre.