The penultimate episode of Talking Gods from Arrows & Traps Theatre, tells the story of Aphrodite, her marriage to Hephaestus and affair with Ares. Written and directed by Ross McGregor, this is a harrowing story of love, war and everything in between.
Aphrodite (Benjamin Garrison) is the Goddess of Love and has very little patience for the moral meatbags around her, but does envy their ability to choose. Gods’ destinies are fixed from day one by the Fates, and her life is controlled by them, Zeus, Athena’s whims; everyone really, but herself.
At one point she got into crafting, but Athena, Goddess of Handicraft, quickly puts a stop to that so Aphrodite resumes her life of lounging and lust. Love is accepting that it is always subject to heartbreak, unrequited feelings and pain, and Aphrodite cynically accepts this and her place within the world of Mount Olympus.
Ares (Buck Braithwaite), the God of War, on the other hand, is a completely broken man. Talking to his therapist, we see him describing Aphrodite as nothing but base lust. Even Gods are vulnerable to love and all terrible acts come from it.
When Hephaestus is married to Aphrodite to make up for his banishment from Olympus, neither of them want to go through with it, and Ares is devastated to lose her. But as their marriage develops, Aphrodite is overwhelmed by Hephaestus’ love for her and Ares breaks entirely when she’s gone for good.
The quietest and most contemplative episode of the series so far, Garrison and Braithwaite’s interweaving monologues lead us through our world, obsessed with war and love by turn. Today’s world is angry and getting angrier by the minute. Contemporary politics are referred to with bemused scepticism and the Gods revel in our inability to live life without fighting and tearing each other to pieces. Ares particularly longs for conflict, hating today’s touchy feely culture with its mindfulness and therapy, and delights in the anger coursing it ways through society.
Braithwaite’s portrayal of Ares is terrifying, with his wide eyes and matter of fact dialogue creating fear and guilt by turn for the viewer. Garrison’s performance as the scornful Aphrodite is excellent. Her anger at the world is unleashed very differently to Ares’ but is equally frightening when you see the intent behind her words. Both characters have been through serious trauma and receive very little comfort from their fellow Gods.
This is a harrowing drama which explores dark and painful issues including abandonment, fertility and loss in addition to the core themes of love and war. By far the darkest episode so far, this is a brilliantly performed piece of thought-provoking theatre which adds depth and substance to the story of a Goddess often reduced to honey soaked days and gentle music. A fantastic reminder that there is too much romance in the world and the people in it for love to ever die, we are also prompted to remember that with love, comes war and pain.
Talking Gods IV: Aphrodite is available to watch here https://www.arrowsandtraps.com/talkinggods
Reviewer: Donna M Day
Reviewed: 8th April 2021
North West End UK Rating: ★★★★★