Marc Castellini was in his final semester at SFU studying Beowulf in an Old English course and completing a directed studies course in playwriting when he thought of combining those two interests by writing a play about Beowulf. Now a graduate of SFU’s theatre program, Castellini has brought former classmate and fellow graduate Kaylin Metchie on board to direct the production that will be shown as a site-specific work at The Cultch during this year’s rEvolver Festival.
“It seems like there are lots of voices and different moral ideologies represented in Beowulf,” explained Castellini. While there were likely many versions of Beowulf told, only one written version survives and it seems full of ambiguities with erasures and overwriting that suggests there were competing versions. The competing voices telling the story in this play grew out of the voices and opposing perspectives that Castellini perceived to be within the Beowulf text.
At an outdoor location the show will begin at dusk, as five competing storytellers address the audience to share their version of the events of Beowulf before nightfall. The play is meant to leave us wondering about how history is recorded, how stories are passed down, and how the written word can give authority to a certain version of events and preserve it for posterity.
While the starting point for the play is the oldest piece of written literature in the English language, the themes that Castellini and Metchie put forth are relevant today and the play requires no prior knowledge of Beowulf. “We’re still writing stories, but not everyone has a voice,” said Metchie explaining that this applies to many areas of our lives including politics, journalism, historical documentation, and the way dominant cultural voices can wipe out others.
“The story ends up being about the difficulty of figuring out the truth of the past and the power dynamics of storytelling,” said Castellini. In the end, one of the five voices does seem to dominate and win out, but Metchie explained that the play then questions how authoritative any story can be when based on memory and the way our personal interpretations can further affect the truth.
A good story about storytelling, this show will remind you of the world of the monsters, warriors, and heroes from Beowulf’s time and make you think about the way we construct and preserve narratives for all time.