Beowulf: The Blockbuster (5 stars)

This article is from 2014

Beowulf: The Blockbuster

Fusion of Irish storytelling and 80s blockbusters strikes at the core of what it is to be mortal

A masterclass in both physical theatre and the grand tradition of Irish storytelling, Beowulf: The Blockbuster examines the awkward father/son dynamic, put to the ultimate test when cancer comes into the equation.

Swapping a proscenium arch for a neon frame, which changes colour as the story develops, performer Bryan Burroughs portrays the smallest of small lads, nicknamed 'Squirt'. who is sick of being bullied and struggling through school, and his builder father. The epic Anglo-Saxon poem of dragon-slaying becomes an extended metaphor for the father's terminal illness: he wants to turn the light off to tell his son, to help the child 'acclimatize to the dark'.

Thus, Grendel becomes cancer the monstrous killer; and Beowulf a superhero of sorts, filtered through the child's fondness for 80s blockbusters Star Wars and Superman - particularly a love of guts and gore. What could have been mawkish or trite is instead a layered, profound and hilarious show - one of the finest this year so far - never using easy clichés and asking fundamental questions on how to break the news to a family, particularly a nine year old, of death. 'Oh Jaysus, Dad,' sighs the boy. 'This isn't a tale with a moral, is it?'

Through gesticulation, mime, an array of voices and audacious, wry humour about tough Irish grandmothers telling kids to 'feck off', Burroughs' incredible monologue strikes at the core of what it is to be mortal, when adults have no easy answers. It has at its heart a tender masculinity, one that says it is okay to cry and to show affection.

There is also a really cool light sabre.

Pleasance, 556 6550, until 24 Aug, 12.50pm,£10- £11(£8) (£9)

Beowulf: The Blockbuster

  • 5 stars

The UK premiere of Beowulf: The Blockbuster is at the Pleasance Courtyard: Beside, Edinburgh from Wednesday 30 July to Sunday 24 August at 12.50pm. It is written and performed by Bryan Burroughs, directed by David Horan designed by Maree Kearns with lighting by Kevin Smith: the creative team for 2013 Fringe First Award…