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Ch-ch-changes: Metamorphoses at the Sydney Fringe

Nabila Chemaissem reviews Montague Basement’s production of Metamorphoses

Photo by Zaina Ahmed Photo by Zaina Ahmed

Hosted by the Sydney Fringe Festival, Imogen Gardam, Lulu Howes, and Saro Lusty-Cavallari’s contemporary adaptation of Ovid’s epic poem, Metamorphoses, was as hilarious and imaginative as the insane 8 AD original. Conducted in the form of short sketches, the three creators plucked the Roman gods from their otherworldly realm and brought them to Sydney.

Howes and Lusty-Cavallari were the sole performers. Minimal costume changes occurred between each sketch, though even the most minor of tweaks was enough to alter their character completely. In one sketch Howes as Diana appeared from the darkness, her hair dishevelled and the corner of her shirt untucked from her short black skirt. She carried a bottle of alcohol and took deep swigs, tears streaming from her eyes for her lost son. In the next scene her shirt was tucked, her eyes lidded, shoes missing and movements sultry as she brought Salmaeis to life, and seduced the childlike Lusty-Cavallari as Hermaphroditus.

I looked up at the audience from where I had been sitting, and saw a woman holding her hand to her mouth in horror at the syrupy blood pouring from Lusty-Cavallari’s mouth. Moments before, we were all laughing at the crazy idea that a person could be transformed into a carton of milk. Laughing at one second and horrified the next, we were transfixed by the brilliant performance of the actors who switched characters with ease.

The music choice, which included anything from Kanye West classics to the theme song of Transformers, was expertly timed and contributed well to the mood within particular sketches. Often, however, it would stop abruptly, leaving us jarred and in silence. The performance also began with a narration by Howes which was somewhat difficult to hear over the loud music, despite the fact that I was sitting only a metre from her. The videos that were used – which included an infomercial and a crash course in how Rome came to be – were hilarious but similarly quiet.

Nevertheless, these issues were minor in the grand scheme of the performance. The contemporary issues, such as slut shaming, corrupt politics, and the gendered way in which rape is understood, were posed to us as questions that we were forced to reflect upon.

Ovid’s epic poem was adapted, and used a medium through which we were made to view and reflect upon our misgivings. Metamorphoses is a testament to the power of adaptation to speak to the absurdity and ferocity, the satire and tragedy that exists in our world irrespective of the era. More people should see this brilliant performance.

The sincere apologies to Ovid, both in the pamphlet and beginning of the performance, were in my opinion largely unwarranted. Ovid would have hung onto every word.