Little Iliad at the Belfry Theatre SPARK Festival March 25-30, 2014. A review.

Little Iliad at the Belfry Theatre SPARK Festival March 25-30, 2014. A review.

Little Iliad by Evan Webber & Frank Cox-O’Connell (EW&FCO, Toronto) currently at the Belfry Theatre’s SPARK Festival March 25-30, 2014 is an exquisite miniature that re-affirms the impact of story-telling.

Since man developed language, we have been gathered together to relate our experiences, aided by shamans, wise men and women, and poets.  From the plains of Assyria, to the GreekIslands; in person, via letter, and now—using the technology at hand—we have an insatiable desire to explain, uncover and understand.

Little Iliad 1Frank Cox-O’Connell and Evan Webber. Photo: Trevor Schwellnus

In Little Iliad, two child-hood friends, Thom (Frank Cox-O’Connell) a soldier about to deploy to Afghanistan, and Evan (Evan Webber) a writer and performer, share a Skype conversation.

Thom has learned about the theatre company, Theater of War, and their re-telling of the Greek classics (as a healing method) to soldiers suffering from post traumatic stress disorder.  He hasn’t spoken to Evan in over ten years, but approaches him with an idea.

Evan wants to turn the conversation into a performance.  Uncertain of the outcome, the two men begin.

Little Iliad is staged (Trevor Schwellnus) in intimate fashion.  Evan is live before the audience—a mere 35 individuals—who listens on headphones.  Thom is represented by a clay figurine, upon which video footage (Pierre-Antoine Lafon Simard) is projected.

Neither man truly knows the story of the Little Iliad—one of Sophocles’ Trojan War stories, yet they gamely—shyly and awkwardly with some hesitancy—begin.  Motives slowly reveal themselves.  At one point Thom talks about the “terrible equality” inherent in being a warrior and the inability of the public to understand.  Evan desperately wants to keep his friend from returning to the battle field.

In today’s world most of us, like Thom and Evan, have engaged in attempts at rekindling relationships via the Internet and social media—with mixed results.  Little Iliad is an examination of our need to connect, and our inability to truly understand the point of view of the other, absent shared experience. Its scope, while small and intimate in nature, carries timeless and epic overtones.

The best theatre is, for me, deeply probing in nature.  I can take the situation played out and extrapolate it to my circumstances, or use it to shine a light on events beyond my ken.  Little Iliad’s apparent simplicity reveals profundity that encourages long philosophical discussions far after the lights are clicked out, and the internet connection closed. It is truly astonishing how something as small as a clay figurine, and a shared conversation over Skype, can ignite the ages-old debate about the glory and futility of war.

“Whatever caught and brought and kept them here,
Under Troy’s ochre wall for ten burnt years,
Is lost: and for a while they join a terrible equality;
Are virtuous, self-sacrificing, free;
And so insidious is this liberty
That those surviving it will bear
An even greater servitude to its root:
Believing they were whole, while they were brave,
That they were rich, because their loot was great;
That war was meaningful, because they lost their friends.”

Christopher Logue, Iliad Book XIX

Little Iliad, by EW & FCO (Toronto)Belfry Theatre SPARK Festival
March 25-30,2014
Tickets $20 at the Belfry Theatre Box Office

Created and performed by Evan Webber & Frank Cox-O’Connell
Set, Lighting and Technical Direction Trevor Schwellnus
Video Design Pierre-Antoine Lafon Simard

Produced by EW & FCO and Harbourfront Centre, in association with The Cork Midsummer Festival and The Banff Centre

Created in Frank’s garage in Toronto and developed through presentations at Free Fall 2010 and Le Festival de l’Outaouais Emergent. Premiere at the Absolut Fringe in Dublin, Ireland (2011) where it received a nomination as the Festival’s Best Production.

Disclaimer: I was offered complimentary tickets to attend Little Iliad.  As always, I retain full editorial control over all content published on this website.

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