In a completely unique staging, Sisyphus: A Rock 'n' Roll Musical explores Greek mythology in a way unlike anything you've ever seen before. Ian Bowkett's piece, featuring three fierce women, many off-brand Barbie dolls and a cracking score, is now showing at the Canal Cafe Theatre.
Loosely following the myth of Sisyphus- the mortal king of Corinth, played by Emily Rushton- rebelling against the gods, and Merope (Bryony Purdue), a goddess, determined to avoid marriage, the audience discover the meaning behind life and death through time, though not in a drowning depth that makes the show heavy at all. The Hunter, depicted by Ciara Whiting, is constantly on the prowl to add to his ever-growing collection of women, as is a spangled representation of Zeus (Emily's second character). An embodiment of Death (also Ciara) makes an appearance, donned in a black cloak, to add to the discussion of the morals behind its concept. The narrative ultimately gets a little tangled up and blurred as the show goes on, though not always detracting from the fluidity of the piece: the lack of structure is still bound together with the frequent songs, and therefore remaining entertaining throughout nevertheless.
With 30 tracks in 80 minutes, this musical is absolutely packed. It is entirely a mixed bag with regards to the atmosphere of each piece, which creates a fast paced dynamic, that keeps the show constantly moving and changing, even without an easily followed plot. Bryony's dreamy voice will leave you in absolute awe, perfectly building on her fantastic acting, while Emily provides beautiful complementary vocals, especially in their duets (notably 'Revolution'). Ciara brings yet another great tone to the blend, completing the composition, and showing how competently all three actresses reflect their given characters. It was often difficult to distinguish between songs by name, due to there being such a mass, but each one was executed admirably. A future cast album seems much needed.
Despite being low budget and in such an intimate space, there was something charming about watching Sisyphus the musical that wouldn't be there, had there been a larger cast or more technical elements. However, without a range of props and costumes to illustrate the story, the use of Barbies does appear to add comedic effect, which draws away from the musical holding much stamina in delivering a particularly meaningful message. Laughter is a common theme, with some utterly hilarious bouts, of which the cast did well to not even crack a smile at (including during Zeus's self-titled tap dancing track!). There were a couple of audio issues that would've been better rectified, but the cast dealt with these very professionally, ensuring they had minimal effect on the performance.
As made evident in Merope's 'A Goddess As King', the rise of feminism empowers women, and can lead to such great things. By casting this musical as all female, it has provided an interesting approach to the narrative, not only as actresses, but also by placing a dominance in Merope's role in the story, alongside Sisyphus.
So if the stars are telling you something tonight, it may well be that they are encouraging you to see this wonderful little piece of theatre.