THEATRE Kings Tricycle, London
For the fellow non-Greek speaker, it's hard to tell how accurate those guesses are. But seeing Alan Howard perform Kings at the Tricycle confirms that Logue's barbaric approach to Homer feels authentic in a way that more informed, classically trained versions don't, precisely because the world he conjures up is barbaric, in the more familiar, modern sense of the word. The quarrels among the Greeks with which this episode is taken up may be heroic in scale, but the Greeks themselves can rarely have seemed less like heroes. As Logue paints them, they are vicious, arbitrary, swaggering, their emotions not so much primal as primitive - they are less kings, in fact, than tribal chiefs.
To evoke the brutality and machismo of this world, Liane Aukin's production offers, to be blunt, two men with thinning hair and sagging midriffs: Alan Howard, perched like some ungainly bird on a high stool and Logue himself, parked clerk-like behind a desk with a copy of the text - a reminder of his status as well as an aide-memoire. This turns out to be sufficient for the purpose, though.
With his outsize voice and imperious manner, Howard can sometimes be a rather overpowering presence on stage. Here, though, he seems perfectly fitted to the magnitude of the exercise. Kings is taken from the first two books of the Iliad, where Achilles quarrels with Agamemnon; hands on hips, pouting and sneering, Howard conjures up a sharp picture of the sulky boy hero and the disdainful autocrat. He is, too, thoroughly in tune with Logue's poetry, capturing effortlessly the beckoning, cajoling tone that he employs - constantly inviting the audience to picture this, to share his vision of what is happening - adding a sense of space and direction with an inclination of the head, a wave of the hand. Logue's occasional interventions in the action, to add a descriptive gloss or to give voice to the wise and ancient Nestor, are also well done.
That's not to say that there's never a dull moment - at two or three points I found my attention wandering, if only briefly. And already, seven years after publication, some of Logue's attempts to find modern equivalents for Homer's language seem dated ("world-class Achilles", "keeping bloodshed to the maximum"). But the immediacy and narrative sweep of Kings outweigh the quibbles. It remains an exciting and rewarding contemporary rediscovery of one of the greatest works of world literature, and of the power of story-telling. Tricycle Theatre, London NW6, to 19 Apr (0171-328 1000)
Film The critics but sneer but these unfashionable festive films are our favourites
TV We're so close to knowing what happened to Oliver Hughes, but a last-minute bluff crushes expectations
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Planes go hybrid-electric in important step to greener flight
- 2 Antonio Martin shooting: Mayor says there should be 'no comparison' to Ferguson
- 3 Antonio Martin shooting: Police and protesters clash over teenager's death just five miles from Ferguson, Missouri
- 4 Northern Lights above Britain: Stunning Aurora Borealis illuminates Northumberland sky on Christmas Eve
- 5 British actor Idris Elba cannot star as James Bond because he is black, says shock jock Rush Limbaugh
Cruel Woman in Black prank sees cinema-goers terrified by movie poster - watch their reactions
Best underrated Christmas movies: From Trading Places to While You Were Sleeping
Game of Thrones season five: First preview clip shows a beardy Tyrion, a moody Cersei and a distressed Arya
Christmas TV guide 2014: The best shows to watch from Doctor Who to Downton Abbey
Transformers 4 named highest-grossing movie of 2014 ahead of Guardians of the Galaxy
Nigel Farage defends Kerry Smith 'ch***y' comment: 'If you are going for a Chinese, what do you say you’re going for?'
British actor Idris Elba cannot star as James Bond because he is black, says shock jock Rush Limbaugh
Rozanne Duncan: Ukip expels councillor for 'jaw-dropping' comments made in BBC TV interview
Germany anti-Islam protests: 17,000 march on Dresden against 'Islamification of the West'
Panic Saturday: 13 million Britons spend £1.2bn – while 13 million others across the country live in poverty unable to afford food
Ukip member gets into Christmas spirit with Union Flag plea to Santa 'for our country back'