Review | The Aeneid | Collapsing Horse

Established in 2012, Collapsing Horse produce lo-fi, surreal, visceral theatre to engage audiences young and old. Their work is imaginative, it is fantasy and adventure. In just 4 years, the prolific ensemble has produced 4 acclaimed shows, touring across Ireland, Edinburgh, Moscow and New York. This autumn, director Dan Colley and producer Matt Smith take on The Aeneid at Tiger Dublin Fringe, with actors John Doran, Manus Halligan, Aoife Leonard, Maeve O’Mahony and Karl Quinn, while their counterparts perform Bears in Space over in New York, a play that delighted audiences in 2015.

The Aeneid, is an ancient poem of adventure, love, brutality and glory. Originally told by the poet Virgil, as a piece of propaganda and a dedication to the emperor Augustus; it once created a sense of pride and ownership for the people of Rome.

In this version, (adapted by Colley) a band of rhapsodes– misfits, romantics and pedants– are bound together to translate the Homeric verses, they tell the stories of those who have come before, to keep the glory of the Aeneid alive.

If like me, you haven’t yet tackled the depths of the original poem, you might be concerned that the re-telling could be unwieldy and daunting, but this adaptation is very accessible; it focuses on the beauty of myth and story-telling. It is an exploration of the how we re-imagine old stories over time, as people and circumstances change.


Maeve O’Mahony as Aenín, narrates the story of Aeneas; she will translate with the help of the rhapsodes. It will be her own translation, but she must play by the rules. She cannot stray too far from the plot, despite her growing friendship with rhapsode, Diana (Leonard).

This adaption cuts away at old strands of the original to re-interpret and re-imagine for a new audience. What would a matriarchal society look like? What if Aeneas’ son Anchices did not have blood-lust and decided to become a painter instead? What Aeneas went back for Dido? What if they didn’t found Rome?

The stage is simple; a white chipboard platform. They use simple props, scarves, branches, flecks of paper, frayed books. They don’t require anything else, they conjure a magical realm, a world for their audience to disappear into. They invite us to see things in a different way.

This is a play that engages all of the senses, the performers give us the tools to lose ourselves, caught in drifts of dusty paper, moved by the blossoming love between Dido and Aeneas, fearful as we wander with them through the underworld. They create an ocean; a city; the stars; vast forests, an entire universe breaks out before us and becomes real.

This story is aimed at an adult audience, however, the company have created theatre for children in the past. and their immersive approach is accessible for younger people also. Conor: At the end of the Universe will debut in Dublin this autumn; a multi-sensory exploration of astro-physics piece for 4-6 year olds.

This is a beautiful piece of work, Collapsing Horse have re-awakened this story from an ancient time, but they have made something unique to their own style as story tellers; and they want you to join them, to see what how things pan out.

The Aeneid is showing at Smock Alley Theatre Sep 20 – 24 @ 18:30 & Sep 21 & 24 @ 21:00
Tickets €16 / €14 conc available HERE

Featured Image Source:
Photos by Ste Murray