Beowulf (4 stars)

This article is from 2018


Adventure and emotion go hand-in-hand in Take Thou That's retelling

The great Anglo-Saxon poem of Beowulf is given an intelligent makeover by Take Thou That, who create a play that echoes with adventure and derring-do – but which has a much deeper layer of meaning, too.

Finding a way into the 900-year-old text by way of 9-year-old Sophie (Eva O'Hara), whose mother is a world expert in Beowulf, is a nice touch, and expertly handled by this young company. It immediately gives the language its own interest before all the exciting sword play.

The clever touch here, however, is that Sophie's mother has cancer. As she explains her illness, Sophie's imagination dreams up a live Beowulf (Charlie Layburn), whose fight to save King Hrothgar from the monster Grendel and his mother, she imagines is like the medical attempts to defeat her own mother's tumours.

While Sophie and her mum talk about the memories that they will not be able to share, the story in her imagination is given a bold physical telling by the eight-strong ensemble. There's plenty of clashing of staves, great warrior chants and the imaginative creation of monsters and settings of Beowulf's deeds as Sophie attempts – and fails – to bring reality under her control.

Underbelly Bristo Square, until 17 Aug, 11.40am, £10--£11 (£9--£10).


  • 4 stars

Take Thou That He's the bravest of the Anglo-Saxon heroes, fighting flesh-eating monsters and fire-breathing dragons in the defence of Hrothgar, King of the Danes. Nine-year-old Sophie knows the story of Beowulf well. She has shared it many times with her mother, a professor of Old English. Together, they have learned to…