Theseus and the Minotaur
Ellen Kirkwood’s achievement in creating this musical retelling of the Greek myth of Theseus and the Minotaur may not quite match that of Theseus in conquering the dreaded half man, half bull, but it’s close. Like Theseus, the odds were stacked heavily against her, the chances of a stilted outcome being huge. But Kirkwood’s deep understanding and affection for the tale, as well as her abilities as a composer and band-leader, proved more than a match for the pitfalls.
Kirkwood’s trumpet is joined by Paul Cutlan’s brilliantly evocative clarinets and saxophone, Alon Ilsar’s drums, Tom Botting’s bass and Glenn Doig’s piano. They create contexts for Ketan Joshi’s delivery of a concise version of the story, and flesh out the text with colour and drama, as well as putting our imaginations to work with sonic realisations of some of the action. They also compound the suspense, and, however well you know the tale, this retelling is gripping.
Were one to be picky perhaps the bullfight motifs in the finale may be a little too obvious, and, as good as Joshi is, perhaps a narrator with a voice of more weight (like Helmut Bakaitis), may have been better. Nonetheless the project should surely appeal to major arts festivals.
After Theseus come three pieces to show that Kirkwood can just as effectively lead her band of intrepid improvisers into musical labyrinths that are entirely devoid of Minotaurs. Remarkable.