Francoise Berlanger, Penthesilea

Review in Issue 19-3 | Autumn 2007

Berlanger’s cataclysmic performance is a grand classical tragedy writ upon her solitary body. This interpretation of the myth of the Amazon queen’s taboo love for the Greek hero Odysseus is a visceral and operatic experience, tangibly evoking the blindness, confusion and desperation of the passions of love. Penthesilea is a solo performance, told in a mix of third person and first person monologues that are sung, intoned and spat out into the audience, Berlanger employs a language that rises and falls across the imaginative landscape. Although I think to get the most out of this piece some knowledge of the original myth is helpful, Berlanger generally sustains the drive of the narrative, whilst the accompanying live sound score provides no respite from the emotional territory into which we have been dragged – her journey into the darkness of the emotional landscape is at times hypnotic. In particular the moment when Penthesilea recognises her own culpability in front of the body of Achilles is dealt with a fierce and brutal intensity, keenly and purposefully framed in counterpoint to the darker more panoramic embodiment of the other sections of her journey. This is above all a powerful snapshot of an emotional crisis that employs and deconstructs a classical narrative to find its contemporary relevance, for in Berlanger’s Penthesilea one can see, and more importantly feel, the wives and parents of the victims of any ‘violent’ act that takes away a loved one.

Presenting Artists
Presenting Festival
Presenting Venue
Date Seen
  1. Apr 2007

This article in the magazine

Issue 19-3
p. 27