WHY call this Wright & Grainger show The Gods The Gods The Gods, rather than plain old The Gods?
“A lot of things come in threes and a lot of things in this show fall naturally into threes,” reasons Alexander Flangan Wright, the Wright to Phil Grainger’s Grainger in this enduring Easingwold partnership.
“It’s one of those powerful numbers: a triad, with the three of us telling the story.” Make that Grainger & Wright & Drury, the trio being completed by Megan Drury, Australian actor, blues singer, writer, creative artists and dramaturg – oh, and newly married to Alex too.
The Gods The Gods Gods is the third in the trilogy of myth, music and spoken word shows by Grainger & Wright, premiered in a Covid-curtailed Australian visit in 2020 and now following Orpheus and Eurydice into open-air performances under the sails at Stillington Mill, near York.
The Gods X 3 will be heading indoors at the Edinburgh Fringe, with lighting pyrotechnics re-booted in the Assembly Rooms’ Bijou tent from August 3 to 29, when this dancier variation on gig theatre will carry the warnings: “Audience participation, Involves walking, Strobe lighting, Strong language/swearing”.
Saturday night was rather more informal, Alex, Phil and Megan testing out their hi-tech electronic requirements, spread out in a triangle of stations of equipment, as the audience gathered on the banks of seating. “Still not the show,” Alex would say, as another adjustment was made.
Such is the nature of a Fringe warm-up and of a first performance in this al-fresco iteration minus the probing strobe lighting. It was all very much in keeping with the spirit of At The Mill, where theatrical magic is made on the hoof, aided by Abbigail Ollive’s pizzas adding culinary pizzazz to the occasion and cocktails playing on the tongue.
Still doing the Maths, The Gods The Gods The Gods is in fact four, not three, stories, spread over 11 original musical tracks arranged by Grainger and Tom Figgins. They are stories of faith and loss of faith; love and loss of love; faith in anything but religious faith; false gods and new gods; a search for holy ground or finding heaven on earth. All set against a final council of the old Gods, Zeus and co, gathering at the end of days.
As Wright elucidated at the close, they are stories grown freshly from the seeds of Kae Tempest, Walt Whitman and David Whyte (Finisterre), and the messages on 28 signs posted on London’s Millennium Bridge, read by Alex and Megan as they crossed over between St Paul’s Cathedral and Tate Modern, the towers of God and gallery, religion and art, that now do battle in The Gods The Gods The Gods.
Phil plays guitar and sings mightily yet tenderly, a Yorkshireman as soulful as Joe Cocker and John Newman; Megan throws shapes and switches between heartfelt spoken word and blues singing that brings out the bruises; Alex plays bass and percussion and spins words of dazzling rhythm, breath-taking in their imagery and rapper’s speed. All three tap away at technology too, evoking Kraftwerk.
Grainger & Wright promised a big, loud, bopping night in the garden – and delivered exactly that. In every way it is the biggest show of the trilogy; the spoken word now complemented by a broader musical palette that combines classic songwriting tropes and lyricism with dancefloor pulses and electronic flash to induce a state of euphoria.
Alas, more Gods than advertised played their hand as the night darkened: the Weather Gods raining on the parade – and all that technology – with one story yet to be completed. Suddenly, the night “involved walking” as we were ushered to the café bar, where Wright gave a resumé of the closing chapters, finishing with that inspirational walk across the London bridge. Trouble at The Mill? Not when they can improvise like that.
An album is in the offing too, and that won’t be in the lap – or laptop- of the Gods, the Gods, the Gods.
THE Stilly Fringe presents Opal Fruits, Holly Beasley-Garrigan’s solo show about class, nostalgia and five generations of women from a London council estate in South London, tonight at 7pm; Casey Jay Andrews’ The Wild Unfeeling World, a tender, furious and fragile re-imagining of Moby Dick, and A Place That belongs To Monsters, a re-imagining of The Four Horsemen Of The Apocalypse, tomorrow at 7pm and 8.45pm respectively.
Lucy Bird, originally from Ampleforth, heads back north with her Birmingham company Paperback Theatre for an “utterly Brummie” re-telling of The Wind In The Willows on July 30 at 2.30pm and 7.30pm.
Yoshika Colwell returns to The Mill for the Stilly Fringe finale, Invisible Mending, her exploration of the power in small acts of creativity through original music, metaphysics and verbatim material, in collaboration with Second Body’s Max Barton, on July 31 at 7pm.
For tickets, head to atthemill.org.