A Review of 'The Frogs' by NUTS

by Divya Nandyal

Having already seen the first half of NUTS’ electric rendition of Frogs by Aristophanes, directed by Zoe Berg and Anastasia Dougenis, I did my best to keep my mind clear of bias, as I filed into Studio One on Wednesday night – but I needn’t have worried about my judgement being clouded, because between the dress run on Monday and the show’s opening, the energy, the cohesion, the confidence had increased twofold!  

The show opened with Cinnamon Howearth’s Dionysus and Mitchell Dihm’s Xanthius establishing their arrogant Greek god and petulant servant dynamic, before my personal favourite scene of the night began with a bang – or rather, a snap. In sashayed the chorus members, truly setting the camp tone for the entire night, as they worked the dance floor in a number choreographed to perfection by the incredibly talented Abigail Pierce (Pluto), bending, snapping, winking, the whole shebang. The song? Todrick Hall’s ‘Nails, Hair, Hips, Heels.’ A phenomenal choice, if I do say so myself, and the cast undoubtedly slayed all the way from their hair to their heels. 

Photography by Dom Young

The level of energy did not falter once throughout the whole production; I’d like to commend Liam Verity (Heracles) on his absolute commitment to the bit as he collapsed, wheezing and laughing, almost to the point of audience concern. In fact, this entire scene was littered with hilarious but not overstated moments of physical comedy, from Xanthius constantly being relegated to a tiny pink chair, while his master and Heracles lounged, to Heracles idly lifting the tiny pink chair like a dumbbell, before idly lifting a marble pillar, Heracles playing with Dionysus’ club, throwing and catching it a few times, before throwing it and catching it with his face.  

It was here that the key plot of the play was introduced: the drama scene in Athens is dying, and Dionysus is terribly bored, so he hatches a plan to head down into the depths of the underworld, Pluto’s realm, to bring back a poet from the dead – but which one? Aeschylus (Samantha Saunders) with his traditional values, or Euripides (Beatrice Upton-Oettel) with his contemporary flair? Along Dionysus and Xanthius’ journey down to the land of the dead, they come across some unsavoury and bizarre experiences.  

Some highlights: Charon (Rory Coverdale), the ferryman of souls’, pink bunny ears, an incredibly synchronised song, recited by the Frogs, punctuated by a truly well utilised rainbow fan, Julian Kumar and Charlie Scanlon’s half-hearted transformation from fearsome beast to fearsome beast, Dionysus’ truly terrific rainbow platform boots, and Aeacus’ (Brooke Benyon) equally intimidating and attractive torture of Dionysus and Xanthius. The entire production was elevated by the visionaries behind the costumes (Cinnamon Howearth and Lucy Jeong), props (Dom Young), and set design (Melinda Knight and Tom Jenkins) – but I’d also like to shout out Abigail Pierce for making her own stunning purple velvet dress for her role as Pluto, as well as Kiri Kerr, who crocheted her green Frogs skirt.  

Photography by Dom Young

This brings us to the flesh of the conflict, the battle between the two dead poets to gain the title of mastery over tragedy, and a second chance at life. Lighting designers Henri Collyer and Sasha Bilanovsky created a stunning, immersive experience here, allowing the audience to truly savour moment of Euripides rap battling his opponent, accompanied by his adoring fans’ beatboxing and tambourine, and feel the agony of Aeschylus’ recitation as his fans sustained an impressively dissonant note, awash in neon red light. Euripides’ over-the-top theatrics contrasted perfectly with Aeschylus’ floaty, pretentious persona, making this debate incredibly engaging, but it was the non-stop antics in the background from the chorus that made this final scene as brilliant as it was; fangirling over Euripides, feeding him grapes, the Landlord (Julian Kumar) and Landlady’s (Laura Elaine) sexually charged, incestuous flirtations, Aeschylus’ fan throwing a bra at him, which Heracles is later seen bouncing, like a yo-yo.  

Photography by Dom Young

As the play came to a close, with Xanthius frantically pleading to not be left behind by his absent-minded master, I was sorely disappointed – I wanted to see more of this talented cast! The experience was incomparable – truly, I cannot say that I’ve seen a play that deals with such a stuffy and pretentious topic as what constitutes a good tragedy, that managed to captivate the audience from start to finish. The directors’ camp, queer, contemporary reimagining of this Ancient Greek play was, in a word, slay. 

Blitz Editor

Anandi Ganguly

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