Created over the past four years by Léda Davies and Jed Tomlinson of The Screaming Goats Collective, Persephone Bound is a multidisciplinary co-production between Imago Theatre and Geordie Theatre. Each show is followed by a talkback with the artists – an important part of the creator’s goal to “begin a dialogue, especially with younger people, about sexual assault.”
Persephone Bound is a modern spin on the myth of Persephone (be sure to also check out Mythic at the Segal Centre which uses the same source material in a lighter context). The general story of Persephone is that she descends into Hell, mingles with Hades, eats the seeds of a pomegranate and becomes Princess of Hell with the responsibility of being planted there for half the year (winter). There are many interpretations of the myth.
The Screaming Goats Collective chooses to layer Persephone’s plight atop a modern media circus surrounding a sexual accusation trial. The three characters – Persephone, Hades, and the Judge, Zeus – form a triangle of conflict that plays out over a tight 45 minutes. In this rendition, Zeus is a game-show host, throwing Persephone through a ringer of victim-blaming behaviour. Forced to defend herself against Hades, a silent antagonist emulating the various privileges men carry through simply existing, Persephone becomes a strong example for women. While she may not get the outcome she hoped for, it seems that by standing up for herself she is able to find some peace, which is one end of the stick we hope survivors can attain – the other being justice.
What makes this show unique is the combination of aerial circus, text, and live music to draw out Persephone’s plight in new ways. Léda Davies, co-creator, embodies the character beautifully both on the stage and above it. Davies and Eric Nyland, who plays Hades, bring the immense trust built between them to life through the manipulation of the straps attached to Persephone. Working with such sensitive material – literally and figuratively – is a commendable act that they handle with finesse and skill. Kudos are due as well to Jed Tomlinson, co-creator, who plays Zeus and the drums, interweaving a bare and ominous soundscape to Persephone’s odyssey.
This is an example of a show done simply and beautifully, from the stark lighting design by Martin Sirois, to the decadent and out-of-this-world costuming and set design by Diana Uribe. There is a feeling of oppression and isolation to the set and lighting design which complement Persephone’s internal life impressively. And this interiority is brought to stunning life through the choreography – special props go to Lucie Vigneault as the Movement Director for creating such vivid images.
The performance I attended was similarly attended by a class of middle-school boys, around 50 or 60 of them. During the talkback, they were curious and invested, proving the effectiveness of theatre at sparking dialogue. And with this subject matter permeating popular culture in the last few years, it is incredibly important to have artists who are treating this material with depth of insight and skill of craft in order to reach young people like these boys. Because if boys are only exposed to the real-life scenarios played out on TV of, for example, Brock Turner not being held accountable for rape, we cannot blame them for internalizing that entitlement and perpetuating that violence.
Persephone Bound runs until November 24th at the D.B. Clarke Theatre. See it while you can, and take your little brother.
Geordie Theatre and Imago Theatre co-present
The Screaming Goats Collective’s Persephone Bound
Performances from November 15 – 24, 2019
D.B. Clarke Theatre (1455 de Maisonneuve W.)
Tickets ($16-25): (514) 845-9810 | www.geordie.ca