Lately, all kinds of media have seen a renewed interest in Norse mythology, be it Marvel’s live-action adaptation of Thor or Neil Gaiman’s interpretation of the mythos in his 2017 book simply titled Norse Mythology, Often, the Norse myths aren’t the easiest subject to tackle, and far too often involve violent, bloody ends and too many gods to keep track of.
Hammer and Tongs Theatre are no stranger to adapting myths and stories, having previously adapted Arabian Nights and Greek mythologies in Myths, making Legends a natural next step for the company. Instead of attempting to cover each and every story in the mythos, writer/director Jennifer Rose Lee has instead vouched to effectively combine a few stories, bringing various gods and monsters together in one long narrative thread.
Hammer and Tongs’ Legends creates a world that’s easy to find yourself caught up in. Under set designer Lizzie Kendal’s multiple colourful banners inscribed with Norse runes and symbols, the audience is immediately gifted with a sense of the grandeur and epic, and is appropriately readied for the fantastic tale about to unfold. By taking on the narrative frame of three Nordic guardians overseeing the going-ons of the nine realms, the script allows the various myths to easily come into play. From a quiz show where Odin and a frost giant are participants, to a poetic polyglot who converses with a sea monster that just wants to make friends, Legends is peppered with twee jokes and silly scenarios that make the daunting world of Norse legend accessible to all.
This is of course, helped by the fact that Legends is armed with three energetic, enthusiastic cast members, who play the roles of various gods, monsters, elves and dwarves throughout the performance. Easily transforming into characters as far flung as an aged librarian to a Shakespearean poet and adopting accents from the American South to English North, Legends feels like a series of short sketches that balances education and entertainment in equal amounts. Oliver Yellop in particular impressed us with his animated facial expressions, and along with his co-stars Charlotte Reid and Philippa Hambly, really charmed us and kept us hungry for more with each segment.
George Mackenzie-Lowe’s incidental live guitar music also added to the mythical atmosphere of the performance, and he also provides sound effects to creative effect, from literally typing away at a keyboard to snapping celery to represent bones breaking.
Photo Credit: Hammer and Tongs Instagram
Performance attended 25/5/17
Legends: Monsters, Mead and Mayhem plays from 25-27 May at the Blue Elephant Theatre. Tickets available here