Daniel Schlusser Ensemble, haunted by Euripides
Presented by Arts House and Daniel Schlusser Ensemble
Produced by Bureau of Works
Tue 24 – Sat 28 May, 2022
Tue – Fri, 7:30pm
General Admission $20
A small transaction fee will be charged per order.
Contains themes of violence and death, including the death of children.
For audiences over 16 years of age, unless accompanied by an adult.
North Melbourne Town Hall
521 Queensberry St,
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An unflinching theatrical descent into a dark underworld of heroes, gods and monsters.
The myth of the hero towers over western history, but what festers within that image of man?
The twelve labours of Hercules are legendary, and reveal a man trying to prove himself more than mortal. His impossible projects tear the natural world apart and plunder the animal kingdom for all it’s worth, all the while erecting an ideal of masculinity that continues to this day. Meanwhile, the lesser-known story of his violent murder of his wife and children is all but forgotten.
Hercules is a powerful and challenging new work from the acclaimed Daniel Schlusser Ensemble that drops a mineshaft deep into the bedrock of the Greek myths, hauling into the sun a foundational story of violence, infanticide, divinity and madness.
Performed by a trio of fearless female performers, drawing on Euripides, pop culture and contemporary experience, this unflinching descent into the underworld of hero-worship is an urgent attempt to topple a mythic figure, by women who defy the demands of tragedy.
“The emotional impact is direct, and devastating”
– Jana Perkovic, The Guardian, on M+M
“Beautiful, uncompromising, lacerating.”
– Alison Croggon, on Menagerie
“Confident, exuberant and utterly, utterly dazzling.”
– Chris Boyd on Peer Gynt
Superman, Conan and a host of Marvel characters all jostle Hercules out of the space of muscle-bound ‘character’, and these characters seem to gain complexity with each iteration. Similarly, Hercules is unlike a whole host of Gods and Mortals from the Greek Myths who have evolved over time, our understanding and interpretation informed by shifts in the ethics and aesthetics of different eras. Hercules is merely a virus, or a grammatical unit; a synonym for male physical prowess, and not much else.
But the Twelve Labours themselves remain quite beautiful, there’s a mystery there. Even more so if you consider them to be coded stories that reveal the real heroes of human history: the rare and fabulous beasts Hercules destroys, the landscapes he alters, the gods he tricks. When he goes to Hades, the dead souls know that he should not be there, should not be so deep under the earth. The labours are a series of transgressions, underpinned by the hubris of a man claiming to be semi-divine.
Then there is Euripides. The playwright who gave us Medea also gave us a story of a man killing his spouse and children. Unlike ‘Medea’, ‘The Madness of Hercules’ has all but vanished; it is considered an ill-made play. Interesting, how the patriarchy defends itself. But Euripides does not simply bring complexity to the condition of this mythic character, nor does he simply deal a powerful man a tragic fate. His play is intersectional and it is radical. Coded into this text is a harsh punishment for Hercules the invader-disguised-as-liberator, Hercules the colonizer, and a timeless warning: you bring home the violence you visit on others.
About the Company
Working in collaboration with institutions such as Chamber Made, RMIT, Bell Shakespeare, Melbourne Theatre Company, Theatre Works and Melbourne Festival, La Mama, and Belvoir 25A, DSE has garnered extraordinary critical acclaim and awards, including Nikki Shiels’ Sydney Theatre Award for Best Actress for They Divided the Sky, and Victorian Green Room Awards for Ensemble and Sound Design for M+M.
DSE has a core belief in the value of ensemble-created theatre, as both an ethical and artistic position. We use a methodology that excites us, terrifies us and respects our vocational status as artists to play and dream publically. We take huge risks, exploring impossible texts, grand ideas and foundational philosophies. We learn as we go, what we are and want we want to be.
Director: Daniel Schlusser
Writers: Daniel Schlusser, Mary-Helen Sassman, Katherine Tonkin, Edwina Wren
Performers: Mary-Helen Sassman, Katherine Tonkin, Edwina Wren
Set and Costume Designer: Romanie Harper and Bethany J Fellows
Composer, Sound and AV Designer: James Paul
Lighting Designer: Amelia Lever-Davidson
Producer: Erin Milne
Associate Producer: Xavier O'Shannessy
Production Manager: Cassandra Fumi
Stage Manager: Theresa O’Connor
Assistant Stage Manager: Celina Mack
This project has been assisted by the Australian Government through the Australia Council, its arts funding and advisory body; the Victorian Government through Creative Victoria; the Besen Family Foundation, Creative Partnerships Australia through the Australian Cultural Fund, and the City of Melbourne through Arts House.
Image credit: Daisy Noyes
Image description: Three women, Mary-Helen Sassman, Kathrine Tonkin and Edwina Wren, appear dressed as a granite cliff face, collaged with rock-texture from their waistline to their shoulders. They are standing upright and facing forward against a surrounding black background.