Myth match

ICARA, written and directed by Ned Dickens, with Bruce Beaton and Risa Dickens. Presented by Ananke Theatre on the north.

ICARA, written and directed by Ned Dickens, with Bruce Beaton and Risa Dickens. Presented by Ananke Theatre on the north lawn of Central Tech (725 Bathurst). July 6-8, July 11 and July 13-15 at 6 pm, July 9-10, July 12 and July 16 at 6:30 pm.

Rating: NNNNN

People mistakenly think of myths as embroidered lies, when in fact they hold the kernels of universal truths.

For a decade, playwright Ned Dickens has been inspired by myths to create some poetic yet hard-hitting scripts: a version of Oedipus staged under the Gardiner Expressway, a kids’ version of Beowulf called Beo’s Bedroom, and now Icara, a radical reinvention of the legend of the boy Icarus, who fell into the sea when he used his waxen wings to fly too close to the sun.

Staged outdoors on the grass at Central Tech, Icara is equally about the power of storytelling and the hypnotic hold of mythic figures. And why in the open air?

“Apollo, the sun god, is a potent figure in the story, and the staging has to build on that fact,” says Dickens, who also directs. “I didn’t want my characters flying off into a 500-watt light bulb in a ceiling grid.”

Dickens has written the title role for a young woman, and given it as a 20th birthday present to his daughter Risa Dickens.

“Myths are the stories we tell about ourselves,” says the playwright. “They’re the cornerstone of our culture, and I think we can learn more from them than from history. Ezra Pound spoke of myth as news that stays news, and I always try to find the core stories that connect as many people as possible.

“Sometimes people try to turn a myth into a cautionary or moral tale, but in fact at heart it’s unsolvable. If we could explain it totally, we’d have done with it.”

The Icarus legend, in fact, is frequently seen as a warning against wilful disobedience and for keeping to the middle path — the son ignores his father, Daedalus’s, instructions to steer clear of the sun — but in Dickens’s version Icara meets a different end, one the writer sees as positive.

“This has been a show 20 years in the making,” smiles Dickens, recalling unspoken personal memories. “At its centre it’s about letting go, which is both the beauty and the pain of parenting. It begins the moment a child is conceived. An important moment in the genesis of this piece happened 10 years ago, when Risa observed that she was frustrated at not being allowed to practise the skills and decision-making her parents had taught her.”

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