Achilles is a physical and emotional tour de force, an adaptation of the famous Trojan War’s events by Scottish artist Ewan Downie and Company of Wolves.
Blending storytelling, dance and song to present a new perspective on the Trojan War hero, Achilles, Ewan Downie co-directs, writes and performs this outstanding solo piece from Company of Wolves. Here, the semi-god is portrayed beyond his strength: tired of fighting, he’s retiring in his tent when he discovers his friend and companion Patroclus was killed in the battle by Hector. Blinded by pain and rage, the warrior commits to and succeeds in seeking vengeance for the fallen soldier.
The writing is nothing short of a success: the adaptation is fairly faithful to the original and the editing is appropriate. The words roll out with a rhythm and musicality which allows for an incredible act of storytelling. Downie effortlessly takes control of the space; there is care and precision in each movement, his body moves with grace even in the most difficult passages and fight scenes. He manages to command attention, recounting the facts with intention and honesty. His whole body moves, bends and contracts with each word, whether it’s sung or spoken. It is a commendable tour de force that Downie manages to deliver six days a week; it is extraordinary.
But my favourite thing about Achilles is the fact that it’s so incredibly human. The story does not focus on his rage or his incredible strength, but on his vulnerability, pain and search for peace. There is calm in the tent when Achilles seeks comfort in Patroclus’ company; there is grief when he discovers his friend is dead. It is a suffering that goes beyond words, that requires a song of mourning. Downie shakes and shrinks to the floor when singing his lungs out as a wounded man. After that, it’s all a blur: the fight, the men he kills are all indistinguishable forms that he moves out of his way until he reaches and kills Hector. There is calm even after, when Achilles leads the rituals for Patroclus’ funerals. Everything is described in detail, respect and care. He is not a hero anymore, but a tired and broken man.
It is refreshing to see masculinity portrayed in a way that lets strength and vulnerability to co-exist, that allows some room for failure, tears and resilience. This production by Company of Wolves is definitely not one to miss.