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)
Arts & Ents blogs
There is a good many moments in the second episode of this psychological thriller that deserve refle...
The opening titles squeal ‘Never Can Say Goodbye…’. Oh Lord how I wish I could heave this series off...
Even though there was a complete absence of our favourite odd couple Brienne and Jaime, we got anoth...
'He was lucky he didn't die' - George Michael fell out of speeding car onto M1 motorway, according to eye witness
Further Space Oddity: Jeremy Paxman grills British astronaut Major Tim Peake in weirdly aggressive Newsnight interview
Coronation Street triumphs over EastEnders at British Soap Awards 2013
Cannes Film Festival 2013 review: Behind The Candelabra - Michael Douglas brilliantly captures Liberace's showmanship
The Freemasons' Code: Dan Brown reveals the message that told him the door to the lodge is open
- 1 Gay couple beaten in park urge MPs to moderate language on gay marriage
- 2 After woman sells virginity for $780,000, here are the results of our prostitution survey
- 3 Exclusive: Championship clubs set to push for safe-standing trials
- 4 China agrees to impose carbon targets by 2016
- 5 Far-right French historian, 78-year-old Dominique Venner, commits suicide in Notre Dame in protest against gay marriage
BMF is the UK’s biggest and best loved outdoor fitness classes
Find out what The Independent's resident travel expert has to say about one of the most beautiful small cities in the world
Win anything from gadgets to five-star holidays on our competitions and offers page.