Camden Fringe Reviews: Horsepower & Bacchae

A new pair of Camden Fringe reviews for Horsepower and Bacchae, both at the Hen and Chickens Theatre

“Go Bacchae go”

One certainly expects to be challenged when wading through the programme of a fringe festival, boldly experimental work is par for the course. But whilst pushing boundaries is all well and good, the show needs to work as well, which leads me to Packet of Crisps Theatre’s Horsepower, a one-person show performed and written by Harriet Gandy. 

We open by meeting the acerbic Desmond, a cabaret artist apparently teetering on the edge of sanity and sobriety. But Desmond soon becomes Willie, a young boy who loves his mum and wishes he was a girl, or maybe a dog and as layers build on layers, a portrait of dealing with trauma comes hazily into view.

At least that’s what I took from it. Horsepower comes across as very abrasive and whilst Gandy throws herself wholeheartedly into some vituperatively effective characterisation, little clarity is carried with it. Structurally the show confuses and so thematically, its power is blunted. A miss, for me.

Esmond Road Productions’ adaptation of The Bacchae also opens with a bold statement intent, as house music pulses through the theatre and neon clubwear abounds onstage. But for all the hints that Euripides is being dragged into the modern age, this ends up being a rather faithful take on the Greek play.

The main point of difference comes with the all-female company, so key characters Dionysus and Pentheus are played as women, divine or otherwise. But once the meat of the action begins, ie Dionysus demanding everyone acknowledge her divine heritage, the specificity of that club setting disappears into something more conventional.

Which isn’t the worst thing in the world, but it also isn’t the most inspired. With Maria Makenna’s adaptation of T A Buckley’s translation still densely packed and delivered at breakneck speed, I have to say it doesn’t feel like the most accessible or engaging of theatrical experiences and you can’t help but feel Esmond Road could afford to be a touch more daring.

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