‘Sound the war-croak, sharpen every claw – the Frogs and Mice are going to war!’
Hello and welcome to the first instalment of Helicon Storytelling’s new, weekly (hopefully) blog!
It’s really exciting to be working on our debut show The Battle of Frogs and Mice this summer and we’ll be announcing a whole load of dates over our social media in the next few days as part of our show launch. But never fear, the first is already up: we’re going to be part of Theatre in the Pound @The Cockpit. We can’t wait to show you what we’ve been working on in our rehearsals, and share the world of the Frogs and Mice!
However, first, we thought we ought to explain a bit of background about the show. The Battle of Frogs and Mice or Batrachomyomachia (pronounced: bat-tra-cho-my-oh-mack-ee-yah – try saying that five times fast for a killer vocal warm-up!) is attributed by Roman scholars to the epic poet, Homer. Who Homer really was, when he lived, what his role in the oral tradition was, and whether he even really existed has all been debated for millennia (and hence a subject for another blogpost!) but for simplicity’s sake, we’ll call him the same Homer who composed the Iliad, the Odyssey and a whole host of other poems.
In fact, the Batrachomyomachia is itself a parody of the Iliad and was used frequently in the Byzantine Era to introduce children to Homeric Epic. This use as a schoolbook text ensured its survival – one hundred and fifty-five copies exist in a whole range of manuscripts (with myriad translations and in varied conditions!) mostly from the 15th century, many in an educational capacity. Despite this, the poem remains relatively unknown today, even amongst the Classics community. Indeed, although we’d heard of the poem, even as university Classics graduates, we’d never actually read the text until late 2017 when we began looking for less well-known Ancient Greek stories to structure our debut show around.
On reading the text, we fell in love. It is available for free online here, isn’t very long at all, and is a guaranteed good chuckle! It follows the story of Pyscharpax (which we have translated as Crumbsnatcher) who is befriended by the Frog-King Physignathus (Puffjaw) and the subsequent clash between the two species. We won’t give too much away yet!
If you’re interested in hearing more about our adventures as a young company or about storytelling in general, we will be posting a new blog every Monday (again, hopefully!). Over the next few months you can expect to see updates on our journey, some interviews with our cast and crew, storytelling advice and games, and more academic discussions on topics like authenticity, oral poetry and the use of unconventional music! And if you haven’t yet, please do follow us on twitter @heliconstories and facebook/heliconstorytelling.