The legend of the Minotaur and his boyish pursuer have provided considerable grist to the mill of children’s storytelling. Its appeal lies in a combination of the dark and mysterious labyrinth, the terrible creature, brave hero Theseus and perhaps above all the good common sense of the thread that leads him back to freedom.
There’s certainly a tremendous and weighty moral universe in Adam Peck’s wide-eyed but muscular adaptation, delivered briefly and breezily in designer Loie Whitemore’s encircling coliseum of a set. Rupert Holliday Evans’ King Minos is cruel and tyrannical, Ben Adams’ King Aegeus weak and cowardly but no less cruel. Theo Solomon’s self-sacrificing Theseus faces each of them down with his fresh-faced bravery, until he too is forced to make a brutal decision. It’s only Anna Elijasz’s Ariadne who teeters ambiguously as her brother’s protector and eventual co-assassin.
There’s never quite enough imaginative spark in Peck’s adaptation or Tarek Iskander’s production, with only a hilariously off-colour piece of audience interaction really displaying some guts. Elsewhere it’s heroism on the rails, pleasantly unfussy but also light on atmosphere and cursory where it could really take its time and twist its horns in. When the lights rise more than a few children ask incredulously if that’s really the ending? What, no interval? What, no ice cream? Is that all they’ve got?