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Pat Moylan

Beowulf: The Blockbuster

With more 5 star reviews than you could ever wish for, sold-out shows, and an ‘Acting Excellence’ award, Beowulf: The Blockbuster emerged as the number one show to see at the 2014 Edinburgh Festival Fringe, the world’s largest arts festival.

Gripping, witty, poignant and vastly entertaining, this triumph of a play reminds us that life is not about how we die, but about how we live.

Originally developed as part of ‘Show in a Bag’, an artist development initiative of Dublin Fringe Festival, Fishamble: The New Play Company and Irish Theatre Institute to resource theatre makers and actors.

Written and performed by Bryan Burroughs

Developed and directed by David Horan

Designed by Maree Kearns

Lighting by Kevin Smith

Sound Design by Philip Stewart

Produced by Pat Moylan

Here's what Bryan Burroughs has to say about Beowulf: The Blockbuster...
" It's performed in the simplest way imaginable in that it's just one actor/storyteller relating this tale directly to the audience which harks back to telling stories around the campfire. That said it's told with as much inventiveness, craft, humour and physical dexterity as possible so that while it feels very familiar in style, it's execution is something unique enough to keep the audience captivated throughout.

At heart it's a simple story about a father and son who despite seemingly overwhelming odds and insurmountable obstacles in their path must find a way through this night and using the story as a conduit say what needs to be said and do what needs to be done.

Throughout the experience the audience are sometimes just like the boy, captivated by some of the story elements, unsure if they can continue, frightened by some of the story turns they have a bad feeling about, frustrated and angry at the moments they don't understand yet and even elated to discover they can have a direct effect on the story itself as it unfolds. The audience are also sometimes like the father : Surprised at the shape, twists and turns that the night is taking, excited by finding potential paths through difficult moments, frightened they've taken a wrong turn or are losing the story strand and delighted when both they and the actor are seemingly united in finding out what happens next as the night continues on.

It's an immensely relatable relationship at the heart of the piece as most of us have had a strong lifelong relationship with a parent, guardian, teacher or mentor. There are also many of us who are parents, aunts, uncles, nephews or have had younger siblings who look up to us. Your allegiance and point of view shifts between both characters throughout and audiences everywhere seem to take these characters to heart in such a way as to care deeply about the outcome of the story which is what seems to give the play its power wherever we've performed it, be it Dublin, New York, Edinburgh, Carlow, Galway, Limerick, Cork and Sligo.
Director David Horan and I are also teachers at The Lir Academy of Dramatic Art in assoc with RADA and it was vital to us that the principles and craft we explore and develop with our students in their acting and physical theatre training were fully utilised throughout the creation, rehearsal and performance of Beowulf. It offered us an opportunity and in truth an obligation to put into practice what we ask of our students. "

Join Theatre Artist in Residence at the Hawk's Well Bob Kelly for a chat-show following the performance.  In advance of this production Bob will also be hosting a theatre craft workshop Going Solo on Sat 7 November from 2 - 5pm. This fun an inventive one-day theatre workshop exlores solo performance that goes beyond traditional storytelling.

The Reviews say it all... 5 stars across the board...
★★★★★ THE LIST

An utterly compelling and charismatic performance from multi award-winning actor, “the supremely talented Bryan Burroughs” (★★★★★ The Scotsman), this ripping script combines humour, empathy and raw emotion to give genuine goosebumps.

A father’s final chance to connect with his son, this is a remarkable and unforgettable experience filled with heartbreaking emotional depth. You’ll be talking about this long after you leave the theatre - book now before it sells out. ★★★★★ The Sunday Times “Tragic. Funny. EPIC. Don’t miss it.”

The title of Bryan Burroughs’ Beowulf: The Blockbuster! is slightly misleading; it is less a reworking of the Anglo-Saxon poem than a performance about how fantasy can help to absolve us from the hideousness of our present circumstances. “I’m about to be born,” Burroughs’ character announces as the performance commences, a metaphor for the birth of the creative imagination as much as a rethinking of his positioning in the greater genealogy of his ancestry. This is not the speaker’s story we are told, but his father’s. His grandfather is dying from cancer and he visits his Star Wars fanatic son to tell him one last story. He re-enacts the tale of the Old English legend of how Beowulf successfully defeated the monstrous Grendel and his equally hideous mother but, alas, he foundered in battle against the Dragon who got the better of him in the end.
This is a one-man show, performed on a bare stage, and what a performance it is. With a lightsaber as his sole prop, Burroughs negotiates the space with agility in a virtuosic piece of Physical Theatre, exploiting his training in the genre to full effect and traversing the boundaries between theatre and dance. Burroughs is an enthralling storyteller and the characters he creates are simultaneously hilarious and endearing. Perhaps a few more laughs may have provided some light relief from the sombre subject matter but otherwise this is a polished, refreshing take on the archetypal bond between father and son.

Star rating: ★★★★

Irish actor Bryan Burroughs has been honoured with a Stage Award for Acting Excellence for his Edinburgh debut in his play Beowulf: The Blockbuster at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe.
Burroughs received his award in front of a full house at the Pleasance Courtyard venue on Saturday August 23.
The Carlow actor said of his win: "I'm delighted to receive the prestigious Stage Award for Acting Excellence and to be bringing it home to Ireland. It's been a brilliant Festival for all of the Irish Theatre practitioners and the support from and towards each other has been palpable.
"A massive thank you to Team Beowulf and to everyone who made my debut at Edinburgh such a wonderful experience."
Written by Burroughs, developed and directed by David Horan and produced by Pat Moylan, Beowulf: The Blockbuster was the only production of the 3,193 at the Festival to receive six five-star reviews.

“No props, gimmicks or special effects – just BRILLIANT THEATRE” THE IRISH TIMES
“phantasmagoric… dazzling” THE NEW YORK TIMES
“a virtuoso physical performance” THE STAGE
“funny, and absorbing piece of physical theatre” BROADWAY BABY