Larger-than-life characters, gratuitous violence, unexpected betrayals and an absurd universe: these are the elements that make the marriage between professional wrestling and Norse mythology exceptionally well matched in Mythos: Ragnarök. We follow Odin and his half-brother Loki through the events of the Norse creation myth portrayed by a cast of professional wrestlers atop a wrestling ring as though we had front row seats to a WWE championship.
The throughline of the story is the tenuous alliance between Odin and Loki. In a world where there can only be one all-father (read: Title belt), sharing credit for a victory is a dangerous game and the audience delights in hooting and hollering for the ever-shifting favourite of the moment.
Where does professional wrestling fit in the world of theatre? Ed Gamester, who wrote Mythos: Ragnarok and plays Odin believes it has been left too long on the margins of the world of the performing arts. This production is spectacular proof of the storytelling potential and drama in the wrestling world and is perfectly accessible to those who wouldn’t ordinarily watch a wrestling match (obligatory trigger warning for the sport-typical levels of violence notwithstanding).
Ed masterfully wields the language of wrestling to create distinct characters and the audience is all too happy to play alongside him, cheering for their favourites. There are gorgeous moments of tension with heel turns and shifts as new divisions form and the audience picks sides. I recall an exciting moment where a particularly divisive victory split the audience into cheers and boos as we briefly reconsidered which side we preferred.
We follow Odin and Loki in the aftermath of the murder of Ymir, ancestor to the jötnar (a mythical race of giants) and the beginning of the creation myth. Odin is a serious warrior and a steadfast believer in taking risks for the benefit of his people while Loki is a trickster, seemingly less power hungry but happy to use his intelligence where it serves him. As Ymir’s blood and flesh form the rivers and mountains of the new world, Odin and Loki form an alliance to take the title of King from Odin’s father Bor. They may not be as physically powerful as their enemies (I cannot overstate how near-comically massive Bor is), but through a careful balance of brawn and brains they manage to win the initial title and forge an uneasy peace over this newly created land.
This peace cannot last as Ymir’s descendants rise against Odin and challenge him once again to battle in the wrestling ring. Loki is torn between his alliance with Odin and his relationship to his half-jötnar ancestry. Where his role first appears to be comic-relief, he soon takes on a much more nuanced role as the rivalries form in Asgard and betrayals ensue.
The cast, entirely made up of real professional wrestlers, is what truly makes this production unique. The fights are, yes, theatrical and hammy but they are also brutal and gripping. They effortlessly perform crotch-lifts and gut wrenches and many more impressive moves I would be less confident in identifying. The kind of violence that makes one understand why Odin brags about the entertainment available in Valhalla. Forever fighting and imbibing large quantities of alcohol are, of course, part of the ideal Norse afterlife.
I was particularly impressed by the emotions and characters portrayed, both in the ring and outside of it. Loki in particular was a delight as he effortlessly transitions from a more light-footed and light-hearted mischievous trickster god to a darker, vengeful version of himself as the betrayals and rivalries pile around him, without ever losing the flair for the dramatic that made his character so entertaining.
Each character’s fighting style meshes perfectly with their character. Where some characters use brute strength to meet a challenge, others wield their intelligence and quick wit to take down their larger, stronger opponents. The sound scaping and venue add a brilliant dimension to the production. The loud, thumping music drums up a tension-filled atmosphere ideal for the high-energy fights we see on stage and the old church surrounding the state inspires awe and gives weight to the mythic story that unfolds.
The greater than life stories within the mythos just make sense in the ring, where even the most nonsensical elements of the Eddas slot perfectly in the hammed up setting. It’s visually riveting and one can’t help but be drawn into the narrative and choosing one’s faction. Ed makes this marriage between professional wrestling and Norse mythology feel more than fated, he makes it feel obvious.
The drummed-up excitement, the uneasy alliances, violent rivalries and underdogs – this is how Norse mythology wants to be experienced.
Recommended drink: A horn of mead to quaff down between the clashes in the wrestling ring.
Catch Mythos: Ragnarök from the 2nd to the 27th at 21:20 at Assembly Roxy (Central). Tickets are available through the EdFringe Box Office.