The Golden Ass - Reviewed by Stanford Reynolds | Regional News Connecting Wellington

The Golden Ass

Adapted by: Michael Hurst

Directed by: Michael Hurst and John Gibson

Circa Theatre, 21st April 2024

Reviewed by: Stanford Reynolds

The Golden Ass is an adaptation of Lucius Apuleius’ ancient Roman novel by Michael Hurst with additional text and dramaturgy by Fiona Samuel. This solo show sees Hurst retell the classic tale of a man transformed into a donkey, a wild experience that leads him to glean insight into humanity.

Hurst begins the performance in flowing beach clothes, relating the story with pace and evocative imagery. He immediately begins connecting with the audience, pulling us into his tale. While punchlines are lost in the momentum at times, the way that he embodies different characters through rapidly changing accents, postures, and mannerisms, is enthralling.

Seeking information on witchcraft to help him write a book, Hurst’s character Lucius tries to copy a ritual to turn into a bird, but is instead changed into a donkey. After this metamorphosis, he experiences different forms of cruelty, nearly forgetting himself and losing his humanity. Throughout the play, historically anachronistic inventions like email and vehicles are referred to, setting the story in a liminal, timeless period much like a fable.

The set (John Verryt) comprises a circular, sandy rug furnished only with some bags and a chilly bin. It is simple yet effective as Hurst uses the space with great physicality, moving between the different characters and scenes.

The lighting and sound, with original music by John Gibson, also add depth to the storytelling. Ocean sounds and a summery amber wash support Hurst’s vivid narration. Scene changes are quick and clear, often punctuated by a crowing rooster in the morning, which, like much in the show, is acknowledged by Hurst for comedic effect.

Injected at every turn is humour that verges on goofy and crass. But in the end, after seeing a dark and beastly side of humanity, Lucius’ sincerity and earnestness pin a hopeful tail on this story.

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