Hawksley Workman’s Reworking of The Bacchae


I had no idea what to expect with this show and I was nervous about how one man was going to pull off telling an epic Greek tragedy in 75 min…by himself. I’m glad to report that not only did Workman pull it off but he also made it seem effortless.

The theatre was overtaken by red lights and instruments were scattered about. There was a group of cabaret-style tables in front of the stage filled with people chatting and sipping wine. The 19+ rating for this show means drinking is not only permitted inside the theatre space but also highly encouraged. In fact, instead of the show starting promptly at eight, the MC told us to take fifteen minutes and get a drink at the bar. I couldn’t help thinking what a great touch the drinking encouragements were.   Dionysus, the Greek god of wine, lust and all things party would have loved the idea of getting tipsy for a show.

If you are unfamiliar with the story of The Bacchae you need not worry. Workman does a quick overview of the plot before he gets into his musical numbers to make sure his references don’t go unnoticed. I was impressed with the way Workman managed himself on stage, he played multiple instruments: guitar, keyboard, drums and the harmonica, which had me thinking “what CAN’T this guy do?”

I felt like I was at a rock concert rather than a “theatre” show. Workman brings an almost Ziggy Stardust/Boy George type of sexuality and rock and roll presence to the stage.

Workman’s use of manikins, boas, makeup and hats to portray different characters—some of which have a real sexual ambiguity—is done skillfully.

The only negative comment I have about this show is that I felt confined in my seat. I wanted to dance or sing along but I felt uncomfortable to do so. I was dealing with abiding by Vancouver Theatre etiquette (sitting quietly in my seat)…when what I really wanted was to be able to move around to the beat and have a more concert like experience. Perhaps the crowd would be encouraged to respond in a more active way if there were no seats involved?  It seems that the move to bring liquor into the theatre space must have had something to do with “loosening” people up, even the change of seating—with the inclusion of the cabaret-style tables—gave a more relaxed feel to the show.  Unfortunately there were no brave souls twisting and shouting at the performance I attended, although I did hear about dancing going on in the later showings.

Overall, Workman’s rendition of The Bacchae was excellent and definitely worth keeping an eye out for if any future performances come our way.