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BWW REVIEW: Ancient Greek Tragedy Is Given A 21st Century Makeover In A New Adaptation Of AJAX

BWW REVIEW: Ancient Greek Tragedy Is Given A 21st Century Makeover In A New Adaptation Of AJAX

Wednesday 24th April 2019, 8:30pm, Old 505

Sophocles' tale of the trauma of war is presented for a contemporary audience with the new adaptation of AJAX by Robert Johnson, Jonathan Graffam and Cast. Post traumatic stress disorder, anger, guilt and the question of how affected the children of war really are explored in this 55 minute work.

For the most part AJAX echoes it's inspiration. The war is transferred from ancient Greece to modern day Afghanistan and the characters, though retaining Sophocles' designations, are Australian army officers and an Arabic wife and child. The tormented Ajax (Seton Pollock) has gone on a killing spree, attacking goats and cattle, in retaliation for not being given the promotion to Major General upon Achilles death, the title going to Odysseus (Chad O'Brien) instead. His wife Tekmessa (Michelle Robertson), a local woman he met whilst deployed pleads with him to change his mind about committing suicide but even reminding him of their child Eurysaka is not enough to stop him giving his prized possession, his machine gun, to his bewildered daughter before he leaves the camp to go down to the river. This new adaptation takes the aftermath of Ajax death further than Sophocles' original as it Odysseus is similarly plagued by the deamons of post traumatic stress and daughter Eurysaka detaches herself from the real world with an unhealthy obsession with Ajax's old weapon.

The staging is relatively simple with large black tarp drops forming the tent in which Ajax is dismembering livestock, of which only some remnants are seen. Lighting and sound shifts the otherwise bare space from the army camp to the river bank location with dappled blue lights for the water's edge and persistent sound of sirens and helicopters for the base.

Major General Odysseus is presented with a naturalistic voice whilst Ajax adopts a more classical theatre style of speech. O'Brien is suitably imposing as the senior officer whilst Pollock captures the damaged man with passion and conviction to ensure the audience see the contrast between the broken soul and the strong physical frame. Robertson's Tekmessa is somewhat overplayed, missing an element of believability whilst Middleton's Eurysaka feels like a new addition to the cast, uncomfortable with the direction.

Whilst stories of the mental health effects on soldiers in war has become relatively well discussed, the question of the effect on children and whether they can be truly rehabilitated from the horrors they have seen is not always as well explored. At a time when Australia is dealing with news cycles of the question of whether it is safe to allow the children of terrorist fighters to return to Australia, questioning whether they have been influenced by their father's actions, the presentation of Eurysaka having an obsession with her father's weapon, a scene reminiscent of news images from Syria, is decidedly disturbing.

AJAX achieves it's aim of having audiences think and consider the aftermath of war. It is naturally not a comfortable show given it's content but it hopefully will have people engaging in the conversation of whether children can really be considered innocent and unlikely to follow in their parent's philosophies.

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From This Author Jade Kops