Beowulf - The Blockbuster

In a style reminiscent of The Princess Bride, a dying father tells his son a mythical bedtime story to impart some vital life lessons. The most important of these is that “heroism can come not only from cheating death but through facing it”.

Award-winning actor Bryan Burroughs pulls off the impressive feat of playing all the many and varied characters in this one-man-show. He masterfully interweaves the father-son present day with the epic tale and in-utero flashbacks. His physicality and skill with accents keep it crystal clear which character he is, despite the rapid-fire script.

Burroughs is utterly spellbinding. He flips delicately between light and shade, expressing courage, fear, humour and sadness. I absolutely bawled my eyes out, between peppered bouts of laughter.

I get emotional easily when it comes to the subjects of death and family. Just thinking about those two words in a sentence is enough to set me off. But I certainly wasn’t the only one watching this well-attended show who was visibly moved by the performance.

Apart from the huge talent displayed by Burroughs, the most impressive aspect of this show is the simple but superb lighting design. With plain black set and costuming, the changing settings and atmosphere are almost single-handedly created through lighting. It is truly a thing to behold.

Beowulf is one of three plays brought to the German Club as part of this Fringe’s Irish Theatre Showcase. The others are Underneath and Little Thing, Big Thing. If Beowulf is any gauge of the group, they’re all a safe investment. And a good indicator of the high quality of Irish theatre.

I put my hand up for this show because I’d seen another interpretation of the Old English epic poem, Beowulf – A Thousand Years of Baggage, performed in the same space as part of the 2013 Adelaide Festival. The two could not be more different. But they share the beauty and power of storytelling as their base, and are a reminder that truly powerful stories can transcend time, geography and cultures.

Stories help us to understand the world around us and how we should navigate through it. This tale of family, film and facing life head-on is one story that deserves to be told. And to be experienced.

★★★★½