After Gilgamesh

Jenny Lewis’s verse play After Gilgamesh opened to rave reviews on 30 March 2011 and played to full houses. The editor of the Oxford Times called the cast the “stars of the future” and described their performances as “high octane”.

Jenny says:

We’ve been inundated with congratulations and praise. A great review from Daily Information reviewer Amy Jenkins after the first night sent people flooding to get tickets, especially young people who loved the amazing energy of the play.” (Read Amy Jenkins’ review here.). Another great review by David Bellan in theOxford Times praised the show’s “inspired direction”, “beautiful set” and fine performances.

“I was left in a state of awe…
All in all, this piece was masterfully written, performed and directed; the projection of the actors, the tightness of the vocals and the stunning choreography really made this piece work and demonstrated the triumphant talent of Pegasus Theatre’s Youth Companies. Bravo to Pegasus.”

Oxford Daily Info

“the gutsy teens of The Pegasus Youth Theatre rose to the challenge of Jenny Lewis’s demanding and unusual play to create a provocative production that is by turns funny and heartbreaking, and stunning in its energy and professionalism.”

Amy Hopkins, Oxford Daily Info

Another review praises the text, hailing a “breakthrough in verse drama”. The book, shown right, is published by Mulfran Press (ISBN: 978-1-907327-10-0, available for purchase via their website).

For a brief background to the show, see David Bellan’s preview in The Oxford Times; for more details, including Jenny’s record of the play in rehearsal, read on:

After Gilgamesh, the one and a half hour verse play which Jenny Lewis was commissioned to write for the inaugural programme of Pegasus Theatre‘s new, £7 million Heritage Lottery funded theatre, had its first run at Pegasus Theatre, Oxford, from Wednesday 30th March until Saturday 2nd April 2011; there will also be an event at the Sunday Times Oxford Literary Festival on Sunday 10th April.

The play includes extraordinary dance sequences, powerful choral music from the Afropean Choir using lines from the original epic, humour, drama and poetry. Jenny chronicled the development of the play for her website, and explained: “Our aim is to explore the relevance and topicality of one of literature’s oldest epics and discover how its themes about the irresponsibility of leaders, the abuse of power, the fear of death and the human need for love and permanence have remained a constant for more than four thousand years.”

Jenny worked closely with director Yasmin Sidhwa and dramaturg Rabab Ghazoul to create a structure for the play which allows interplay of ideas and plot between ancient Mesopotamia and modern day Iraq. In December 2010 she reported:

We’re now into week 12 of rehearsals for After Gilgamesh. The cast has been working with Yasmin, Nicola, Musical Director Anita Daulne and Choreographer Allan Hutson, to develop character and movement. We had an amazing weekend on December 4th and 5th working on the dance for the gladiatorial combat and war sequences. Each actor is paired with a dancer to represent the ‘soul’ of the character and it often shows the character’s interior conflicts.

The cast worked incredibly hard finding at movements that sometimes reflected and sometimes clashed with each other. When some of Anita’s new music was added, the effect was so powerful I was moved to tears. It made me realise how dramatising text gives it a completely new dimension as movement, especially dance, appeals to a different set of response mechanisms that are non-intellectual and non-word based.

“This has been one of the most significant learning curves for me in this project.

“Some members of the cast worked on the gods and goddesses scenes and the war cabinet scenes – both funny – and added their own superb touches of humour through voice inflection and actions.

Jenny and members of the cast looking at the poster book


It’s been fantastic to watch the play growing and developing so well. I was also shown the poster and stage set design which is incredible. The very talented Nomi Everall has worked with the young production company to produce these classy and striking visuals.