Get breaking news alerts via email

Click here to manage your alerts
(Courtesy photo) Anne Briggs as Wigluf and Tobin Atkinson as Beowulf in Meat & Potato Theatre's production of "Beowulf." Courtesy Meat & Potato Theatre 2014.
Utah theater: Meat & Potato’s ‘Beowulf’ is witty and inventive
Review » Puppets and performers inject new energy into a classic story.
First Published May 27 2014 04:06 pm • Last Updated May 27 2014 10:02 pm

Probably somewhere in our school years, many of us encountered the epic English poem "Beowulf." We may even have had to tackle it in formidable Old English.

Put any of these taxing memories aside. At its core, "Beowulf" is the archetypal adventure story, a primal saga of a hero who sets out to confront and conquer the evil in his world. Meat & Potato Theatre’s Tobin Atkinson and Marynell Hinton have reworked and updated the tale, giving it an exciting and inventive production at the Rose Wagner Performing Arts Center.

At a glance


Meat & Potato Theatre cleverly updates the classic story of a hero combatting powerful dark forces to restore order to a troubled world.

When » Reviewed on May 23; Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays at 8 p.m., and Sundays at 2 p.m. through June 8.

Where » Studio Theatre at the Rose Wagner Performing Arts Center, 138 W. Broadway, Salt Lake City.

Running time » Two hours and 15 minutes (including an intermission)

Tickets » $20, with discounts available. Call 355-ARTS or visit www.arttix.org for tickets and www.meatandpotato.org for more information.

Join the Discussion
Post a Comment

The basic elements of the story remain: When Heorot, the royal mead hall of Danish King Hrothgar, is besieged by the bloodthirsty monster Grendel, the king searches for "the bravest man alive" to slay the beast. The challenge intensifies when Grendel’s mother, who is even fiercer, gets involved. And finally, Beowulf has to contend with a fire-breathing dragon.

Atkinson and Hinton have compressed the story, while adding and altering a number of the characters. Instead of a dashing young warrior, Beowulf is an older man who has settled into the prosperous life of a merchant and must be talked into his heroic task.

"The man you seek — that Beowulf — is dead," he tells Connif, the king’s emissary. And the bravest fighter in Hrothgar’s kingdom, whom he chooses to help him, is Wiglaf, a young woman. Beowulf becomes her mentor, which gives the story an interesting new slant.

In Beowulf’s past is an incident that sounds eerily like 9/11, and the second act acquires a cinematic feel when Beowulf and Wiglaf go on parallel quests and the action cross-cuts between them. A conniving Lady Macbeth–style queen and her sniveling son add more layers to the plot, and — as with any Meat & Potato production — there are puppets.

The result is Old English epic with Shakespearean overtones and a dash of Tolkien. It’s fun to speculate where in Atkinson and Hinton’s imaginations the pieces come from.

Josh Thoemke’s Hrothgar is rock steady as he contends with his kingdom falling apart and the nagging of his shrewish wife, Wealhtheow, a role Rebecca Marcotte revels in. Steven Robert Jones is alternately whining and treacherous as Unferth, the prince, and Alexa McPherson’s Freida is loyal and touching. William Richardson endows Freywaru, the seer, with impressive voice and presence.

The rest of the ensemble cast — Connor Padilla, Conor Thompson and Jake Trumbo — are strong in multiple roles, and everyone gets involved in manning the puppets. But at the heart of the production are Atkinson’s world-weary, sardonic Beowulf and Anne Louise Brings’ fiery, impulsive Wiglaf, who make an intriguing combination.

Director Jeffrey Ingman efficiently orchestrates tension and movement in the Studio Theatre’s confined space. Ruth Weisman’s giant wooden platform set exudes a foreboding air under Megan Crivello’s dramatic lighting, but it seems unnecessary to keep turning the set around. K.L. Alberts’ period costumes are heavy and rich, and an intricate sound design drives and enriches the story, as is characteristic of Meat & Potato productions.

story continues below
story continues below

Meat & Potato only performs once a year, but the company’s productions are always unique and theatrical. As Beowulf says here, "the only constant is surprise."

Copyright 2014 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Top Reader Comments Read All Comments Post a Comment
Click here to read all comments   Click here to post a comment

About Reader Comments

Reader comments on sltrib.com are the opinions of the writer, not The Salt Lake Tribune. We will delete comments containing obscenities, personal attacks and inappropriate or offensive remarks. Flagrant or repeat violators will be banned. If you see an objectionable comment, please alert us by clicking the arrow on the upper right side of the comment and selecting "Flag comment as inappropriate". If you've recently registered with Disqus or aren't seeing your comments immediately, you may need to verify your email address. To do so, visit disqus.com/account.
See more about comments here.
Staying Connected
Contests and Promotions
  • Search Obituaries
  • Place an Obituary

  • Search Cars
  • Search Homes
  • Search Jobs
  • Search Marketplace
  • Search Legal Notices

  • Other Services
  • Advertise With Us
  • Subscribe to the Newspaper
  • Access your e-Edition
  • Frequently Asked Questions
  • Contact a newsroom staff member
  • Access the Trib Archives
  • Privacy Policy
  • Missing your paper? Need to place your paper on vacation hold? For this and any other subscription related needs, click here or call 801.204.6100.