My first impression of Sam Young, the creative power behind Thus, I Curse Love! was that of a gamer seeing his ultimate DND wet fantasy brought to life. However, I was more than pleasantly delighted by his take on an aspect (a beautifully crafted prequel) of the Ring Cycle, Wagner’s Der Ring des Nibelungen. Overall, the play was superbly engaging, fluid, brilliantly portrayed, and an overall Fringe success.

Young clearly has an excellent grasp of Germanic sagas—the way in which they are carefully layered, yet he modernizes the language for the most part, to keep the text relevant for a contemporary audience. Some of Loki’s soliloquies wax a bit poetic, but that touch of Miltonian language pays homage to the roots of the legends and their original oral storytellers.

Such sagas were meant to be heard and seen, not read, and Young certainly bears this oral tradition well. The actors, Jesse Cowell, Yana Skorstengaard, and Elias Brunt, completely immerse themselves in their characters of the Alberich, Nix, and Loki, respectively. All three performances are excellent and completely believable. Cowell’s and Skorstengaard’s banter around working for the bosses (the Gods) isn’t any different from colleagues griping about the unfairness of life around the water cooler or over a beer. Brunt’s take on Loki does justice to the notorious trickster, and reminded me of the trickster Raven from our own local indigenous legends.

Cowell’s take on the dour and jaded Alberich was fantastic. The subtle connection that the dwarf king had for the nixie spirit was ever present, as was the inner struggle that Alberich had between his desire for the nixie and his craving for revenge on the gods for selfishly utilizing Alberich’s skills for their own whims and desires without properly paying the dwarf in gold and respect. It is Alberich who ultimately curses love, at the end, and he does so with complete conviction.

Skorstengaard was marvellous as a martyred Rhine maiden who sacrificed her ability to love in order to save her sisters from having to marry giants (a fate worse than death, according to legend, apparently!). What came through in the performance, for me, however, was the deep love that Nix had for her sisters, and her resolve to keep doing right by them, even at the cost of her own potential happiness, which was felt throughout the play.

Lastly, but not least, Brunt as Loki does a wonderful job of flitting about the stage (on which I will touch in a moment) and scamming the revenge-blinded Alberich to obtain the ring from Nix, and the heart-hardened Nix into giving up the ring to Alberich. Brunt comes off like a used car salesmen, and I mean this as a compliment to the greasiness that he brings to the role, which is completely and utterly appropriate for a trickster god (with apologies to used car salesmen who are honest and not greasy).

To the set! The play is staged in the middle of the Granville Island boatyard, with the sea on one side, and buildings to the other, and boats all around, both in the water and out. The audience is encouraged to walk around the actors, as the actors improvise to a slight extent their choreography within the space. The audience must follow the actors in order to see the actors at all times, and to hear all the lines of script. This aspect is a bit more engaging than sitting around a stage, and the audience ebbs and flows like a tide around the action.

One particularly nice piece to this was that, at one point, Cowell and Skorstengaard are quite literally doing rings around the audience, which was a delightfully subtle nod to the ever present, albeit invisible, Der Ring des Nibelungen.

An enthusiastic “well done, you” to Sam Young and his troupe of three, for one of the more engaging Tuesday evenings that I’ve had in a long time. I can’t wait to see what the Not the Mermaid Theatre releases at the next Fringe.

Catch the next shows at Fringe on:

Wednesday Sep 10 2014
6:30 PM
Thursday Sep 11 2014
6:30 PM
Friday Sep 12 2014
6:30 PM
Saturday Sep 13 2014
6:30 PM
Sunday Sep 14 2014
6:30 PM