Set to be staged in Bengaluru, this gripping adaptation of Homer’s ‘Iliad’ reinforces its relevance

ByFathima Ashraf

Published Nov 11, 2023 | 9:08 AM Updated Nov 14, 2023 | 9:01 PM

The adaptation of Homer's classic, An Iliad is being staged in Bengaluru over the weekend. (Supplied)

When you think of Greek epic poems, Homer would be the name that comes to mind first. His works such as the Odyssey and Iliad are known to leave a lasting impression on its readers. 

Adapted by Lisa Peterson and Denis O’Hare, An Iliad telescopes Homer’s Trojan War epic into a gripping monologue that captures both the heroism and horror of war.

Patty Gallagher playing the lone poet on state. (Supplied)

Patty Gallagher playing the lone poet on state. (Supplied)

The adaptation of this classic is being staged in Bengaluru over the weekend at Jagriti Theatre.

In this vibrant retelling, the Trojan War and present day are set side by side as ancient history is catapulted into an intense, intimate, and at times funny, story for today.

“I have always been a fan of ancient Greek theatre and mythology,” shares director Kirsten Brandt. The US-based playwright was drawn to this adaptation because it recontextualises the epic poem by bringing in references to modern day.

“The ancient war between the Greeks and Trojans is made to feel very immediate in this work,” says Brandt who is visiting India for the first time.

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A relevant story

Lasting over 90 minutes, the play showcases a lone poet (played by Patty Gallagher) on an open stage. She throws us right into the midst of conflict where heroes and countries clash in a quest for power and glory. 

Kristen Brandt. (Supplied)

Kristen Brandt. (Supplied)

“Gallager is a gifted physical actor.  She is able to convey so much through the expressiveness of her gestures and voice,” shares Brandt.

The story is very relevant in today’s times because history repeats itself.

“War is happening in the world and continues to happen. The story is about rage and pride and the senselessness of war. But it is also about family and friends and the cruelty inflicted on them by war,” Brandt points out.

The poet’s character played by Patty doesn’t want to tell the story — she hopes every time she does, it is ‘the last time.’  

“She is forced to keep singing this song (the poem) until war stops.  She wants the audience to see the waste of war, the destruction, the terror in the hopes that they will be agents of change and help stop war before it begins – and then finally she can rest.”

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Challenges of a solo 

Brandt says keeping the audience engaged is critical when it’s a solo piece.

“Lisa and Denis have done such a brilliant job with how they constructed the play.  They infuse humor into the story just when you need it,” Brandt tells South First.

After major battle sequences, there are contemplative and beautiful, softer moments.  This keeps the audience engaged throughout the piece.

Another challenge was to make each character played by Patty distinct — both physically and vocally. She adds, “It’s a challenge when some of the characters only appear for a line or two — each one has to be different.”


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Keeping viewers engaged

Brandt has used lighting techniques to set the tone and nuance in order to keep the monologues engaging. Jake Sorgen, the musician on stage with Patty, has composed the live score.

“Lighting allows us to be expansive and make moments very intimate. Besides, the music works in concert with the text and the text with the music. Jake and Patty are like two jazz musicians riffing off of each other,” she notes.

That said, there are certain things one has to keep in mind before adapting a classic, Brandt points out.

“You cannot assume the audience knows the original. Lisa and Denis have done a magnificent job in the adaptation to not only help those audience members who don’t know the original while satisfying those that do. For me as a director, I need to make sure the story is conveyed clearly to the audience,” she signs off.

Tickets available online

Date : Nov 11-12

Time: 3.30 & 7.30 pm

Venue: Jagriti Theatre, Whitefield

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