Caravanserai: Luna Parc, 23 May 2023
It’s long been acknowledged that there is a certain degree of acting in the world of wrestling. So it shouldn’t come as the delightful surprise that it does that these professional wrestlers are remarkable storytellers. It’s an unexpectedly perfect marriage of the bombastic and the dramatic, key elements flying across effortlessly from the world of sports entertainment to elevate the telling of the tales of the Norse gods. A complicated tangle of family bonds, mischief, betrayal, power repeatedly held in the balance as each battle is both wanton and politic, the show itself a descent from a knife’s edge of delightfully humorous clashes to brutal survival, a reminder as to who has been holding the narrative and the power of the control of the direction in its telling.
The origin stories aren’t simple and Odin – our predominant narrator – does his best to explain them in the show’s set-up and throughout the expansive Norse god universe. The lack of fourth wall is used to good effect for this and our relationships with everyone from the preening Loki to the caustic and indestructible Baldr. We are the baying crowd quite literally for the gods and their children to fight, complicit in witnessing and encouraging their descent throughout as perspective slides and in-perceptively the tone drops by several degrees. It’s chilling to witness when Thor slips from good-natured foolish powerhouse to cold-blooded unflinching destructor, triggering the blinkers to fall as to the rest of the ensemble. These are Odin’s children, and his handprint at the rein’s of our relationships with them is suddenly clear and dirty. Beautifully done!
The staging is incredible. The Scandinavian metal music heralding these mighty warriors as they arrive and clash setting these athletes as gods effectively, and with light shows aplenty too. The physical prowess of every member of the cast is phenomenal, as they throw each other around the floor, slamming each other down in classic wrestling throws, causing the audience to cry out and wince with each choreographed piece of battle punctuation. There’s humour too, as they sass one another, working from a script obviously affectionately familiar with the ancient source material, and physically committing to their roles with impressive costume, make up and wrestling pop.
At its core this is Odin and Loki’s tale, and it is only right that the pair bookend the night’s many bouts. Compulsive, impressive, satirical, and surprisingly heart-rendering – Ragnorak has all the ingredients to a meaty feast of a wrestling odyssey to satisfy the mythology and wrestling fans alike. I can’t wait to see what the theatre company do next.