Swimming upstream: Hero & Leander, Or, I Love You, But Everything's Underwater @southbankcentre

Jack Dean & Company landed at the Southbank Centre's Purcell Room for one day with their gig-theatre retelling of the Greek myth Hero & Leander. Songs that mix folk, country, electronica and the odd sea shanty tell the story of the tragedy of Hero and Leander. 

In this version of the tale, Hero and Leander are from two towns but meet at a dance and continue to see each other. But their towns are separated by a narrow strait, and when the ships stop sailing between the towns due to a conflict, Leander swims across the strait to meet Hero, guided by the light of the lighthouse where she lives. And being a tragedy, this doesn't end well.  

The staging is simple, with just the musicians on stage. Jack Dean and Siân Keen are engaging as the ill-fated lovers and various other characters in the story. It's incredibly inventive and evocative with its fusion of musical styles and sensibilities. 

The storytelling is brisk and sometimes feels like it could benefit from expansions (or a repeat). The show could be the basis of a more considerable theatrical work, which could flesh out the story further. 

But for now Hero and Leander was at the Southbank Centre as part of the Unlimited Festival on 11 September. The piece is off to Rotherham on 21 October and Petersfield on 10 November. 

An online version is available for streaming from the Southbank Centre's website until 18 September. The album of the show is also available on all the usual streaming platforms. 


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