Skip to main content

REVIEW: King Gilgamesh and the Man of the Wild at Soulpepper/Tria Theatre

int(100684)
iPhoto caption: Photo by Dahlia Katz
/By / Aug 2, 2023
SHARE

At a coffee shop in Toronto, two unlikely pals meet.

One, Jesse, is a wannabe Hollywood actor, living in Toronto out of pure circumstance. The other’s a barista named Ahmed, loquacious and curious about the world around him.

They have things in common, it turns out. They’re both actors, and they’re both permanent residents of Canada. They both feel a deep connection to music-making. 

And somewhere deep inside, they’re both terribly, terribly lonely.

On this first chance meeting, surrounded by the charm of the empty coffee shop, Ahmed (played with a gorgeous blend of humour and subtlety by Ahmed Moneka) decides to tell Jesse the story of King Gilgamesh, the oldest story in the world (Jesse LaVercombe, too, is superb). It’s a twisting, often scrambled epic, with striking images and powerful fables embedded into the fabric of the myth. 

Over the course of their evening, Jesse and Ahmed grow closer, learning more about each other and their respective cultures as they indulge in psychedelic drugs. It’s an intense bonding experience for the men, whose lives quickly become intertwined — before they separate once more, perhaps for good. 

King Gilgamesh and the Man of the Wild defies genre. It’s a great fit for Soulpepper, a dandy blend of theatre and live music (the band, called Moneka Arabic Jazz and founded by Moneka, is led with bluesy grace by bandleader Demetrios Petsalakis). Moneka doesn’t just act, he sings, too, with a youthful bravado that only adds to the complexities of Ahmed’s and Jesse’s friendship. Jesse, as well, is a wizard on the keys.

Seth Bockley directs the piece with a personal flair — he’s billed as playwright and co-creator alongside Moneka and LaVercombe — and he’s managed to find an impressive balance between making the evening feel like a concert and a play. The elements are inextricable from each other, the music and the myth-making, and the whole affair is impeccably well paced. Lorenzo Savoini’s set and lighting, too, float between concert and play, and the effect is just lovely. 

Elements of this play echo another high point of Toronto theatre this year, Maanomaa, My Brother at Canadian Stage/Blue Bird Theatre Collective. The piece similarly used real-life narrative references to explore an encounter between dissonant cultures and the delicacy of friendship between men. The two shows speak to each other, Gilgamesh with music and Maanomaa with movement, and the plays perhaps also signal a larger need for stories about men being gentle with one another. Maanomaa was a delight, and King Gilgamesh picks up right where it left off, creating a scrumptious harmony of well-conceived new works.

King Gilgamesh and the Man of the Wild is one of Soulpepper’s best pieces of programming of the past year, a perfect summer evening of live performance in the intimate Michael Young Theatre. Strongly recommended — and bring a friend. You’ll be grooving in your seats the whole time. 


King Gilgamesh and the Man of the Wild runs at Soulpepper through August 6. Tickets are available here.


Intermission reviews are independent and unrelated to Intermission’s partnered content. Learn more about Intermission’s partnership model here.

Aisling Murphy
WRITTEN BY

Aisling Murphy

Aisling is Intermission's senior editor and an award-winning arts journalist with bylines including the Toronto Star, NEXT Magazine, CTV News Toronto, and Maclean's. She likes British playwright Sarah Kane, most songs by Taylor Swift, and her cats, Fig and June.

LEARN MORE

Comments

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


/
iPhoto caption: Photo by Dahlia Katz.

REVIEW: Age Is a Feeling aches with tenderness and love

Age Is a Feeling is a warm hug for whoever might need it.

By Aisling Murphy
Production shots of the Stratford Festival shows reviewed below: Hedda Gabler, Twelfth Night, and Romeo and Juliet. iPhoto caption: Production shots by David Hou.

REVIEW: Straightforward concepts, stripped-down sets, and strong performances define Stratford’s approach to the canon this year

Throughout Stratford’s productions of Romeo and Juliet, Twelfth Night, and Hedda Gabler, moments of actorly playfulness jolt us into the here and now.

By Liam Donovan
stratford festival iPhoto caption: Production shots by David Hou.

REVIEW: Stratford boasts a flair for the dramatic in two terrific musicals and a spooky take on Shakespeare

All in, this was a very strong opening week for Stratford, but seriously, go see the musicals!

By Aisling Murphy
iPhoto caption: Photo by Dahlia Katz.

REVIEW: The Wrong Bashir is an ode to the hyphenated identities of Canada

Quibbles on the show's comedy aside, The Wrong Bashir will stay with me for a while as a successful ode to hyphenated identities across Canada. 

By Eleanor Yuneun Park
iPhoto caption: Photo of Come Home — The Legend of Daddy Hall by Cylla von Tiedemann.

REVIEW: The Legend of Daddy Hall feels like coming home

Home is not a place, it’s a feeling, and Come Home — The Legend of Daddy Hall feels like I came home. I was taken on a journey watching this play and came out honoured to be a witness to such an incredible story. I encourage you to do the same.

By Aisha Lesley Bentham
beaches the musical iPhoto caption: Photo of Beaches the Musical by Trudie Lee.

REVIEW: Beaches the Musical is spine-tingling and tender

If you have a yen for catchy tunes, love stories, and everything else that makes the most successful Broadway productions so memorable and universal, invite your bestie to Theatre Calgary to see Beaches the Musical. 

By Jacqueline Louie