Ipswich: All-father Odin talks Eastern Angles’ latest production Ragnarok
- Credit: Lucy Taylor
It wasn’t raining when I left for the Sir John Mills Theatre. Dripping on the floor of Eastern Angles’ office 20 minutes late, it seems Ragnarok has come early.
“The full Ragnarok will be about two o’clock,” laughs Antony Gabriel. Playing Odin in the company’s latest play, he should know.
Standing at 6ft 2in, it’s pretty clear who he’s playing but given acclaimed playwright Charles Way’s otherworldly story features all manner of gods and monsters I think it best to check he’s not playing a nymph or something.
“My nymphing days are behind me,” he roars with laughter. “They were pretty brief. Four years ago I was in The Hobbit and everybody was saying ‘what are you playing’ and I was ‘I’m a troll, what do you want, give it up for the troll in the house’.
Centred around the Norse gods’ battle with giants, every aspect of Ragnarok is big.
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Stemming from hubristic notions of the gods about the way in which you can dodge fate, Odin’s lucky in the fact he’s shown the future by Sarah Thom’s Seeress. I’m not sure she’d use the word lucky though.
“I predict Ragnarok when Odin, who keeps me kind of captive so he can tap on my secret powers, visits. Because of these horrific visions she’s in a state of pent-up distress... I’m full of bad news,” laughs Thom, who doesn’t have much joy as puppet character Idun either, a slightly more chilled spirit who gets abducted by a giant.
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“Both my characters are tortured spirits; it’s a barrel of laughs,” she laughs.
“Being god,” says Gabriel in his booming Odin voice, “I can forestall that and we’ll see what happens. He’s a very interesting character; very heroic, a leader, a good father, then there’s another side to him.
“He’s quite fickle which is all true to the legends. He was the god of war and the god of poetry and a few points in the production he waxes lyrical; yet he’s a man with a spear going out there chopping heads off, so it’s a fascinating contradiction.”
It’s easy to find similarities between Odin, who’s pushing the war with the giants, to modern-day leaders he adds.
“He’s almost like a mid-20th Century dictator in the way in which he’s into certain racial supremacy. It’s very easy to find that in the text, to go down that route, to see parallels to modern-day monsters.
“Odin has many facets. He’s all these good things, then there are equally a large amount of bad things about him. (He’s certain) this is the only way to deal with this situation, ‘if this is the only way I can think of that is the only way’ – so it’s that ego and hubris. Of course, comeuppances are coming thick and fast for everybody.”
It’s also about managing a family too in a funny sort of way; playing with the balance between his godliness and his relationship with his wife and sons which comes with all the quirks and sharp edges human relationships and families come with – especially those with a very strong paternal leader.
“We keep finding new stuff everytime we look at it, it’s great,” adds Gabriel, who says everybody involved has done tons of research - a lot of which decorates the walls of the Sir John Mills Theatre.
“It’s a fantastic piece of theatre that won’t disappoint. It’s one of those things, when you’re involved in good work you really want to see it and I’m not going to see it,” he laughs. “I’m watching the bits I’m not in, putting myself purely as an audience member going ‘wow’. Some of the stuff with the giants is mindblowing.
“We’re working very hard, there’s enormous amounts to put in place but it’s so good to be challenged, to have yourself be put through your paces because there’s the puppets, movement, fighting, dance you name it. We have gods, giants, beasts, spirits; we have them all and they all have an opinion.”
Performed by a cast of eight, I risk Odin’s wrath by asking if he’s playing any other characters.
“It’s enough I tell you,” Gabriel laughs. “Come six o clock I’ve got a cold compress on. Being god from ten to six, it’s a big job – I’m no longer a nymph.”
Ragnarok runs at the Hush House, Bentwaters airbase, from September 11-28. Read arts editor Andrew Clarke’s interview with director Hal Chambers online now.