Night Creature

No story is sacred.

We deform narratives to our own expectations and experiences merely by the act of reading, viewing or listening. Actively adapting a text is perhaps the extension of that automatic phenomenon, where an author restructures a whole, or elements of a text, in line with their own perspective of the work. Now, if you're a wank-tacular graduate of a writing degree like myself, you'll know this process as retextualisation and it commonly involves displacing the work in time or space (sometimes both), overhauling the stylistic register, or messing with the characters. (This last one has become so common in online fan fiction that the term 'gender-swapping' was conceived to describe the process of flipping the sexes of protagonists.)

Night Creature is such a production by British players, Lion House Theatre Co.; written and performed by Casey Jay Andrews, along with her fellow player, Tom Coliandris. It is adapted from the Grecian myth of Scylla, a watery monster who features in a number of classic texts, primarily Odyssey. Andrews boldly reinvents the mythological tale by inserting it into an imagined Yorkshire fishing village and replacing the monstrous nymph with a young girl called Sid. Other characters from the Hyginus interpretation are similarly adapted, though, in not wanting to spoil Andrews' inventive execution, I cannot reveal whom or how they feature in the production.

The show seemed to me to draw heavily on the style of Gaelic folk tales, reinforced by Andrews' lyrical and occasionally poetic script, Coliandris' whimsical guitar and romantic messages in bottles (respect for using Cooper's), providing a fitting thematic device throughout the performance. Night Creature does a gender-swap of its own after a manner, rejecting Grecian playwrights' patriarchal view of Scylla and instead reforming it into a study on female identity, independence and matriarchal affection. One admirable section has Sid rightly rejecting the lacklustre advances of Coliandris' George, scathingly subverting any expectations of a cookie-cutter romance. Andrews also adapts the altogether more tragic climax of the Grecian original, altering it into a bittersweet ending that suits the tone of the performance satisfactorily.

While Andrews' cadence and pacing occasionally stumbles almost imperceptibly, she intones a suite of convincing Yorkie accents that make for excellent characterisation, and the character of Sid feels genuine and complex. I confess to feeling a little sorry for Coliandris in his minimal role in the show, occasionally plucking away at his guitar in the more emotional scenes, and with his few lines as George, but it rather fits the tone of a show written to emphasise feminist ideals and values. Perhaps my only other legitimate criticism would be questioning the wisdom of the advertised "live electronic score" (including some guitar) when Coliandris is sitting there holding a silent instrument, but this is the pettiest of quibbles.

Night Creature is an inventive and refreshing take on an obscure Grecian myth that expresses the best aspects of retextualisation. It builds upon the original text in creative ways, replaces its more antiquated ideas, and still provides a charmingly fantastic story to enjoy.

★★★★

[Editor's Note: The "live electronic score" as referenced on the show's billing upon the Adelaide Fringe website is a mistake that was unfortunately uncorrected at the time of this review. Lion House Theatre Co. bear no responsibility for this error.]