A woman walks through the darkness towards a spotlit microphone. She makes the hissing sounds of snakes before declaring “This is the story of my severed head.” It’s quite an opening for Beautiful Evil Things, the one woman show by Bristol-based theatre company Ad Infinitum.
Actress Deborah Pugh is the woman in question and the severed head is that of Medusa, the monstrous gorgon from Greek mythology with venomous snakes instead of a head and the power to turn people to stone by just making eye contact.
The story centres around the Trojan Wars and is told from the perspective of Medusa, whose decapitated head was attached to the shield of the goddess Athena.
For a show stripped back to just one performer, a circle of red wire, four microphones and a travel chest, it is absolutely spectacular.
Beautiful Evil Things by Ad Infinitum
Pugh is outstanding as she switches seemlessly between the many characters in this 75-minute performance. I was completely convinced that she was different people and totally drawn in to the battle scenes that seemed to feature multiple individuals.
Pugh’s energy and vocal dexterity is awe inspiring as she encourages us to change the way we traditonally think about ancient Greek tales, and particularly the role of women.
We are challenged to reconsider how we view characters such as Cassandra, Medusa, Penthesilea and Clytemnestra. While many versions of Greek myths depict them as evil, mad and punished by men, this show suggests the women of Greek mythology have often been misrepresented. They have been wronged by male gods, husbands and others, with their heroism rarely told.
This performance of intense, but also often humorous, physical storytelling is combined with brilliantly dramatic sound and music which transforms you back to ancient times.
Beautiful Evil Things, co-written by Deborah Pugh and George Mann, is definitely up there among the best shows we’ve ever seen. We urge you to watch it as soon as you can.
We saw Beautiful Evil Things at Tobacco Factory Theatres where the run has ended. It continues on tour with performances during October and November 2022 in Sheffield, Oxford, Falmouth and Maidenhead.
Deborah Pugh said:
“Reseeing the stories of the Trojan War afresh through Medusa’s eyes has been a brilliant opportunity to review these well-worn classics and interrogate their familiar translations and tellings. How would a monstrous social outcast, murdered by a hero see things differently? Which characters would she connect to? How would she feel about gods and heroes having fallen foul of both of them? What would be her telling of these tales? And would they still feel so very… masculine?
“Some stories had to be unearthed, others reframed but this fabulously fearsome female gaze has been the perfect lens through which toview the tales of some truly phenomenal ancient wonder women, each as flawed, fearless and front footed as their male counterparts. Each stood strong and centre, driving their own story.”