The making of Hercules
An artist statement by Daniel Schlusser Ensemble
Hercules is a meme. As a child, Hercules seemed to me a vivid character in a complex story, part of the Greek Myths that were as full of human foibles as they were superhuman exploits. But as I’ve grown up, the idea of Hercules has revealed itself to be almost flat, or perhaps it has flattened over time. The Steve Reeves, or Kevin Sorbo, or Disney Hercules aren’t re-examinations: they are simply viral transmissions of a minimum quantum of information that then activate completely different characters and ideas.
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 Daniel Schlusser Ensemble
Daniel Schlusser Ensemble (DSE) was founded in 2009 and has created an astonishing range of projects – radical re-workings of plays, site-specific chamber opera, video installation, ambitious adaptations, and intimate works for motion simulation technology. Our philosophy is that content leads form, which results in the embrace of both traditional and new solutions.
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.
Hercules – Daniel Schlusser Ensemble
Tue 24 – Sat 28 May, 2022
GA $20 / PAY IF YOU CAN $35 / BLAKTIX $10
Image: David Paterson.