by S. Hardaker
Troy Story: Age of the Hero is an adventurous and ambitious tale of the Battle of Troy, told through the personal stories of the gods, Achilles (played by Jak Spencer) and Patroclus (Alex Rawnsley), as well as Hector (Gillian Konko) and Andromache (Erin Malinowski). Marketed as a night of myth, a journey through story and song, it certainly delivers.
The O’Reilly Theatre, once I was able to find my way awkwardly through the back gate of Keble, was buzzing on opening night, and having no expectations or much of an idea of the story itself (despite being a History student), I sat awaiting to witness, as I am sure many of my fellow freshers can relate to, my first theatre show in a long while. And I was not disappointed.
The music itself was incredibly sophisticated, and as a musical theatre fan, I can honestly imagine it as a cast recording or on a bigger stage. The live band was polished and skilled, and despite a rather long gap in act one of the show without a song, making for pacing that was briefly unusual, each number highlighted a different character and complemented the dramatic and captivating saga taking place before the audience’s eyes. Specific stand out singing for me was Paris (played by Rhys Surtees) in one of the opening scenes with the goddesses, with his strong and clear voice, as well as Achilles’ mother, Thetis (played by Eliza Niblett) in her passionate and emotional solo. Self-described as having a ‘pop-rock’ soundtrack, Troy Story undeniably served the audience just that, with the final number, ‘A Couple of Months’ reminiscent of Hamilton’s ‘It’s Quiet Uptown.’ What’s more, the gender-blind casting resulted in a refreshing, and no less engaging, retelling of the all too male story, where women were simply wives and mothers, bidding their men farewell or crying over their lost sons and husbands. While this element is still clear, the story being what it is, the cast succeeded in diversifying a — let’s be honest — ancient tale. Hector in particular was a wonderfully powerful and compelling character. Not only that, but the modern dialogue and moments of comedy added balance to the emotive, touching scenes that resulted in some heartwrenching moments (in the best way).
In the wider context of various Greek myth retellings in the form of novels currently rising in popularity, such as Madeline Miller’s The Song of Achilles and Jennifer Saint’s Ariadne, the show seemed to fit snugly into the contemporary trends, commemorating and honouring ancient tales while also celebrating voices of the present day. Unapologetic and bold, Troy Story may even pave the way for other inventive, artistic retellings here at Oxford.
Overall, the passion of each cast and crew member was felt in their performances and the entire production and made for a magnificent evening, a lovely distraction from end of term stress, and firmly renewed my admiration for all those who are involved in making these shows possible.
If you want to see the musical, there are still tickets available for the Saturday matinée, as well as the final performance on Saturday evening:
Troy Story: Age of the Hero – 23rd -26th November 2022 at the Keble O’Reilly Theatre
An original musical written by Sav Sood and Tallulah Knowles
“An adaptation of Homer’s Iliad, Troy Story: Age of the Hero follows the beginning and end of the war in Troy – a story with heroism, sacrifice, and duty at its core – and a battle for glory and legacy. Featuring an original pop-rock soundtrack, Troy Story is a retrospective of the epic woven with contemporary interpretations of the text.”