Epic myth, daring aerials and music royalty collide

Two of Australia’s most exciting companies have joined forces for the first time in an explosive retelling of one of ancient history’s most enduring myths.

Premiering at Brisbane Festival in the Playhouse from 29 August to 10 September 2022, Holding Achilles by David Morton unites visual theatre masterminds Dead Puppet Society (Ishmael; The Wider Earth; Laser Beak Man) and leading physical theatre company Legs On The Wall (Man With the Iron Neck; THAW) for an epic retelling of Homer’s Iliad, presented by Brisbane Festival and Queensland Performing Arts Centre.

Set against the intense violence of the Trojan War, this genre-bending production blends heightened physicality and visual storytelling to weave a legend of mythic proportions.

Writer and Director, Dead Puppet Society Creative Director David Morton said the world premiere production offered a fresh perspective on the sweeping saga.

“Although there have been many adaptations of the Achilles story, in Holding Achilles, we examine what is rarely explored – the human cost of this sort of conflict,” Mr Morton said.

“In Homer’s Iliad, Achilles describes his childhood friend and wartime companion Patroclus as ‘the man I loved beyond all other comrades, loved as my own life’, providing our jumping-off point to re-examine the hero’s relationship with his lesser-known lover.

He warned audiences not to expect a traditional retelling of the Iliad.

“Our adaptation flips the notion of what’s ‘heroic’ on its head. In this intimate account of the Trojan war, a bloody war story famed for its violence, the hero is a pacifist queer man.”

Leading the cast are Stephen Madsen and Karl Richmond as lovers Achilles and Patroclus, with Ellen Bailey, John Batchelor, Lauren Jackson, Thomas Larkin, Nic Prior, Christy Tran and Jennifer Vuletic completing the ensemble.

ARIA winner Montaigne will perform live a haunting new score composed with ARIA-nominated record producer Tony Buchen and Chris Bear of Brooklyn-based indie rock group Grizzly Bear.

Holding Achilles co-creator and Movement Director, Legs On The Wall Artistic Director Joshua Thomson, described the work as “a true queer epic”.

“Traditionally the story of Achilles has been violent, however, Holding Achilles seeks to capture the grace and power of the two central characters while the brutality of conflict encircles them,” Mr Thomson said.

“The use of world-class aerial and floor physicality lifts this story into its full poetic potential.”

Brisbane Festival Artistic Director Louise Bezzina said the biggest thrill was bringing Dead Puppet Society and Legs On The Wall’s collective talents together, combined with the soaring sound of Montaigne.

“Brisbane Festival has enjoyed a long and exciting relationship with both Dead Puppet Society and Legs On The Wall and we are thrilled to bring these two iconic Australian companies together for what I know will be an explosive collaboration,” Ms Bezzina said.

“Both companies’ work shares similar hallmarks in their exploration of non-verbal languages, dedication to political and social interrogation, unabashed ambition and unique ability to balance the intimate and the epic.

“I have no doubt Holding Achilles, as part of the Brisbane Festival 2022, will be one of Australian theatre’s hottest tickets.”

QPAC Chief Executive John Kotzas said the power of performing arts enabled new stories to emerge and new perspectives on history that could be shared and re-examined even thousands of years later.

“The Playhouse will transform into a space reminiscent of an ancient amphitheatre, sweeping the audience away in the age-old sacred spectacle of theatrical storytelling that crosses disciplines and forms,” Mr Kotzas said.

Holding Achilles makes its world premiere at Brisbane Festival, playing 29 August to 10 September at QPAC’s Playhouse.

Brisbane Festival returns to fill the city with three weeks of wonder, delight and celebration from 2 to 24 September 2022 with a full program announcement in July.

Tickets for Holding Achilles go on sale to the general public on Monday 6 June on the QPAC website.

Related Articles