The God That Comes
Classical cult cabaret from Canadian performer Hawksley Workman at Edinburgh Festival Fringe
This article is from 2014.
Hawksley Workman does not lack ambition. The God That Comes reworks Euripides' Bacchae as a one man show, with Workman playing both the vengeful god of wine and his regal victim. Performed as a song-cycle, Workman also plays drums, keyboards and guitar, looping his voice and music into tumultuous melodies and twisting his lyrics around themes of abandon, control, erotic fascination and orgiastic murder.
Workman's songs are at their most effective when he layers sounds and chases a wild electric thunder (that most suits Dionysus' ecstatic moods): his ballads are less convincing, placing the story over the lyricism his piano melodies seem to demand. And when he reaches the climatic scene, where Pentheus is torn apart by the god's followers, a burst of heavy guitar that invokes free jazz and rock expresses a sensual brutality that hints at the erotic undercurrent in the killing.
Dionysus and cabaret are a natural mixture: the episodic nature of the form imitates the lurching between moods that the god of wine revels in. Workman is less convincing in his sensitive interludes – his voice and charisma are tough, and charming. But by telling the tale clearly, and working up a righteous frenzy, he offers up a prayer to the divine force that will not be tamed.
Summerhall, run ended.