“Mythos: Ragnarök” is a theatre experience like no other. I’ve seen almost 130 shows last year, yet what I experienced yesterday at the Vault Festival performed by a team of 9 professional wrestlers had more originality and pure joy than most of the classic comedy shows I’ve seen before. “Mythos: Ragnarök” made me headbang to nordic-inspired tunes until the very end, in between bursts of laughter and an occasional loud “oooh”. It’s a passion project with a huge heart, and a loud “bang”: a showcase of athletic prowess and theatrical flair.
Let’s set this straight: I’ve never seen a wrestling show live or on the TV, in my life. I’m leaning towards the pacifist side in my life and my beliefs, so martial arts are just not on my list of things to experience. However, this performance has been on my radar for a while. I’ve seen it popping in London in the past, and the opinions I’ve heard were unexpectedly positive – taking into account that they came from theatre fans like myself.
So when I saw “Mythos: Ragnarök” announced as one of the acts in this year’s Vaults Festival, I knew the time has finally come to leave my assumptions behind and just get a ticket to see it. Was it worth it? Hell yes, more than worth it!
The show includes not just wrestling, but sword fights and an abundance of magnificent narratives. It combines many nordic myths into one, interconnected story of gods, half-gods and their constant fight for power (here symbolised by the big leather belts). We follow Odin “The All-Daddy” (Ed Gamester) and Loki (Michael Reece, the audience’s favourite, of course) as they face primaeval giants and rival Gods and Goddesses. Reece delivers some of the funniest lines of the show, and mixes them with a lot of physical comedy – I just couldn’t take my eyes off him.
The actors wear outfits showcasing a mix of nordic outfits and classic wrestling attire elements (shiny golden leggings, anyone?) – fantastic work by Melanie Watson. Most of the wrestlers sport the classic long-hair style, which also helps in combat sequences – a strong grip on the hair looks great on stage. There are some sword fights thrown in, but mostly we observe the cast throwing themselves on the floor, jumping on each other and engaging in full-on, intense fight scenes (pardon my non-expert wrestling vocabulary). And before you ask – yes, there’s always a story. Every combat has a back story, an intro, and some dialogues thrown in, making the production a cohesive piece of theatre rather than a sporting event.
I have to praise the equal participation of female wrestlers in the show – some of my favourite scenes included Freyja’s (Maddison Miles) impressive moves and quick combat wins against the male actors. And then, of course – as we see the big reveal of the undead Hel (Rhonda Pownall) entering the stage in her spectacular “zombie” mode and taking down members of the cast – that’s just pure entertainment gold. On a side note, Pownall’s transition from an innocent, seemingly defenceless character, into a powerful, fierce fighter (in a matter of minutes) was a majestic, high-quality piece of acting.
I enjoyed the music that accompanied most of the sequences in the play – a mix of rock, folk and metal songs with a nordic theme increased the energy of the show and made the audience clap their hands, bang their heads and eagerly anticipate the next part whenever the stage went dark. The beginning of the show featured strong bass and nordic drums, making the excitement fly high (even if the accompanying dry ice smoke was a bit excessive at times). But as much as I liked the music, certain scenes, like the final battle, were staged with the music set way too loud, which made it impossible to hear what the actors say. Sure, it probably wasn’t the substantial dialogue that pushed the story forward, but still – missing out on a potentially good, juicy pun was a letdown.
I could feel that it was a passion project from the very beginning, so when at the end of the show Ed Gamester gave thanks to the audience and mentioned that they are not professional actors and he paid for the project himself, it was just a formality. The audience (including myself) was totally sold on the concept and the authenticity of the show. Because, how can you not?
It’s not your typical, serious story about wars between mythical creatures – even though it is definitely well-researched and backed by comprehensive scriptwriting. The team between “Mythos: Ragnarök” found a way to balance what they’re best at (wrestling) and with tons of light humour, and managed to make a it a pleasure to watch even to those who are not really into any combat-related performances.
Art constantly evolves. We now have plays including high-tech projections, holograms (like “Cages” at the Riverside Studios last year), and even theatrical dining experiences – so why wouldn’t wrestling become a part of mainstream theatre as well?
“Mythos: Ragnarök” is pure joy, a one-of-a-kind theatrical spectacle. It was a huge surprise to me – I did not expect to enjoy this show as much as I did. The way Gamester and his team engage the audience’s emotions and make people gasp for air in moments of intense fights, is truly spectacular. The show is coming to London’s Cockpit Theatre by the end of February – don’t think twice and grab the tickets if you dare. Thank me later.
Mythos: Ragnarök by Mythological Theatre
Odin: Ed Gamester
Borr/Fenrir: Sam Gardiner
Loki: Michael Reece
Gullveig/Hel: Rhonda Pownall
Baldr: Beau Sapsford
Freyja: Maddison Miles
Thor: Justin Sysum
Surtr: Charlie Spooner
Fate: Melanie Watson
Lights: Dan Phillips
Costume: Melanie Watson
Writer: Ed Gamester
Director: Ed Gamester
Producer: Ed Gamester