Peterborough theatre artist Kate Story weaves epic Beowulf legend into her new play

Presented by Public Energy, 'Anxiety' runs November 24 to December 3 at The Theatre On King in downtown Peterborough

In her new one-person play "Anxiety," Peterborough writer and theatre artist Kate Story uses the epic Old English poem "Beowulf" as a jumping-off point to examine the history of the English language and the roots of white supremacy, while seeking to understand her place in a modern world seemingly gone mad. (Photo: Andy Carroll)
In her new one-person play "Anxiety," Peterborough writer and theatre artist Kate Story uses the epic Old English poem "Beowulf" as a jumping-off point to examine the history of the English language and the roots of white supremacy, while seeking to understand her place in a modern world seemingly gone mad. (Photo: Andy Carroll)

Fresh off being named a finalist for a Governor General’s Literary Awards for her young adult novel Urchin, Peterborough writer and theatre artist Kate Story will be premiering her new play Anxiety at The Theatre on King (171 King St., Peterborough) for seven performances beginning Thursday, November 24th.

In her one-person play, Story skilfully weaves the epic medieval Anglo-Saxon poem “Beowulf” into a humorous, poignant, and honest exploration of her own story growing up the daughter of a famed Newfoundland lexicographer. She uses the poem as a jumping-off point to examine the history of the English language and the roots of white supremacy, while seeking to understand her place in a modern world seemingly gone mad.

“Anxiety doesn’t cause more anxiety — rather it aims to release the pent-up anxiety that so many of us are feeling in these, well, anxious times,” reads a media release from Public Energy Performing Arts, which is presenting the play.

Advertisement - story continues below

 

 

For those unfamiliar with “Beowulf,” the Old English poem — which is more than 3,000 lines long — was composed by an unknown author between the eighth and 10th century in the tradition of Germanic heroic legend. Set in sixth-century pagan Scandinavia, the poem tells the story of warrior prince Beowulf of the North Germanic tribe the Geats, who comes to the aid of Hrothgar, the king of the Danes, and slays the attacking man-eating monster Grendel. After Grendel’s mother resumes the attacks to avenge her son’s killing, Beowulf also defeats her and then goes home to becomes king of the Geats. Fifty years later, Beowulf fights a fire-breathing dragon but dies from wounds he suffers during the battle.

“In Story’s play, we see how relatable the Beowulf saga — a combination fairy tale and superhero story — can be for today’s audiences,” reads Public Energy’s media release. “We learn how Norman invaders left a bigger mark on the English language than the Anglo-Saxons, and we also learn that exploring the Norse and Celtic themes reflected in Beowulf takes you a click away from white supremacy websites where those ancient cultures are twisted into inspiration, warriors warped into role models.”

Using humour, music, and physical theatre, Story plays all the roles in Anxiety, including her own mother and father, the young and old Beowulf, Grendel the monster and Grendel’s mother, the dragon, and even J.R.R. Tolkien — the Lord of the Rings author who wrote a seminal 1936 essay on “Beowulf” as well as a translation into modern English that was only published 40 years after his death.

"Anxiety" is also an exploration of Kate Story's experiences growing up the daughter of famed Newfoundland lexicographer George Story, who was a co-author of the Dictionary of Newfoundland English. (Photo: Andy Carroll)
“Anxiety” is also an exploration of Kate Story’s experiences growing up the daughter of famed Newfoundland lexicographer George Story, who was a co-author of the Dictionary of Newfoundland English. (Photo: Andy Carroll)

Like her novel Urchin, Story says Anxiety “delights in the words and linguistic rhythms of Newfoundland,” where she was born and raised and where her father George was a co-author of the Dictionary of Newfoundland English (DNE).

“The DNE has become a key work for many important Newfoundland authors, and also for E. Annie Proulx’s The Shipping News,” Story explains. “The DNE is a wonderful work, and being around that work — and growing up in Newfoundland where people still sometimes use very old English words and forms — deeply informed my relationship with the English language.”

“And then when I started investigating Beowulf and, developing Anxiety, that went further … hence my relationship to my father crept into the theatre work too.”

Advertisement - story continues below

 

 

Artist and writer Victoria Ward calls Story’s play “a powerful, action-packed Beowulf rehash that combines personal revelation with a storytelling alacrity and insight rarely found on stage these days.”

Directed by Ryan Kerr with music composed and adapted by Karol Orzechowski (aka garbageface), Anxiety will be performed at 8 p.m. on November 24 to 26 and again from December 1 to 3. There will also be a “relaxed performance” at 2 p.m. on November 27 — suitable for audience members on the autism spectrum or those with sensory, communication, or learning challenges.

Tickets, which are sold on a sliding pay-what-you-can scale from $5 to $25, are available at eventbrite.ca/e/anxiety-tickets-428049526657. For more information about Anxiety, visit publicenergy.ca/performance/anxiety/.

Kate Story performs all the roles in "Anxiety," including her own mother and father, the young and old Beowulf, Grendel the monster and Grendel's mother, the dragon, and even J.R.R. Tolkien, the Lord of the Rings author who wrote a seminal 1936 essay on Beowulf. (Photo: Andy Carroll)
Kate Story performs all the roles in “Anxiety,” including her own mother and father, the young and old Beowulf, Grendel the monster and Grendel’s mother, the dragon, and even J.R.R. Tolkien, the Lord of the Rings author who wrote a seminal 1936 essay on Beowulf. (Photo: Andy Carroll)

 

kawarthaNOW is proud to be a long-time media sponsor of Public Energy Performing Arts.