William Zappa and Critical Stages Touring

Director and Writer: William Zappa

Assistant to the Director: Lindy Hume

Percussion: Michael Askill 

Oud: Hamed Sadeghi

Set and Costume Design: Mel Liertz

Sound Design: Steven Coyle

Lighting Design: Matt Cox

Adaptation Mentor and Editor: Emeritus Professor Elizabeth Minchin FAHA

Associate Producer and Stage Manager: Farlie Goodwin

William Zappa's thrilling Australian adaption of a Greek classic

Homer’s ageless masterpiece – about pride and greed, glory and horror – doesn’t need resuscitating, it is very much alive.

The Iliad is the first great story in the Western tradition – a monument to the glory and futility of war – telling the story of 40 days in the 10th and final year of the Trojan War. At its heart, it follows a single theme, the fury of Achilles, who is immobilised by pride and honour and never lifts a weapon for 20 of the 24 books. This adaptation brings the story back to its original oral tradition when it was spoken (sung) over 15 hours.

Written in rhythm for Australian actors and musicians, each book unfolds like a TV serial, with episodic recaps of the story so far; from Homer’s filmic forensic view of the battlefield, to the Gods’ ultimate lack of care or control over fate. It’s an epic tale told with unflinching tenderness and flashes of dark humour from the Gods themselves.

William Zappa studied 17 translations of the original text to create an experience that unifies orator and audience in this extraordinary theatrical experience. The Iliad – Out Loud, has met critical acclaim and is now available to present over 3 parts.

Four actors, live percussion and oud, and your community, are about to embark on an epic adventure together.

The Iliad is supported by the NSW Government through Create NSW.

Available to Tour



Theatre, Special Event, Drama




3 parts of 3 hours each

Venue Format

Theatre, Civic/Cultural Centre, Black Box, Amphitheatre

Performance Seasons

January 2019 – Sydney Festival
March 2020 – Adelaide Festival
April 2021 – Four Winds Festival

Performance Possibilites

The Iliad can be performed by 4 performers or one, and both with and without the musicians. As well as the 9 hrs over 3 nights version, it can also be performed as a solo 6hr epic, or as shorter episodes over multiple nights. The work can be adapted to suit a variety of venues, including non-traditional theatre spaces, both indoors and outdoors. Talk to us about the possibilities.

Selling Points and Audience

Key Audiences:

Podcast and Binge Enthusiasts: those who are not familiar with the text but are keen to experience a classic in an accessible and new way. The longer format and deep-dive lends itself to audiences looking for a whole-week or weekend experience.

Classical & Classic: those familiar with the text, or the story, will find this new adaptation an incredibly rare opportunity to experience this classic. Traditional literary, classical music and opera buyers will find this experience tantalisingly unique.

Theatre Lovers: long-format theatre is rare in the west. The Iliad – Out Loud is one of very few such experiences, much like Angels in America, and theatre lovers will be curious and dip their toe in over one part, or dive in for the full experience.

Festivals: Given the scale of the text itself, and the mammoth effort of four actors playing 40 parts, The Iliad – Out Loud presents an opportunity for festivals to present something with classical credibility, contemporary cool, and marketable curiosity. Epic sells.

Marketing Selling Points

  • Quality production (reviews, production history)
  • Uniqueness of experience
  • A classic reborn for all audiences

What People Are Saying

4.5 STARS [Zappa’s] sovereign adaptation… embraces all the joyful and bitter shades of human experience, bringing us round the campfire once again.” Limelight

4.5 STARS “it was magical and eerie to have spent nine hours listening to an examination of the power of Zeus, and then to see his chief power manifested. The Iliad Out Loud was everything I’d hoped it would be: wonderful to experience the tale in the way Homer intended.” Arts Hub

4 STARS ““the verse is thrillingly vibrant…The Iliad’s sprawling magnificence is still brought to potent, pumping (and sometimes amusing) life.” John Shand, SMH

4 STARS “This Iliad is a prodigious undertaking and a truly awesome achievement.” Stage Noise

“Zappa brings a poetic rhythm and an Australian voice, honouring the classic ad making it accessible to modern audiences” Canberra Times

Community Engagement

Engage your community with:

Acting Masterclasses
Run by teaching artists who are touring with the production, these 45-60 minute masterclasses hone the skills of local performers with a focus on the use of rhythm, rhyme, and adapted text.

Greek Chorus
There are community participation options for the ensemble that makes up a ‘Greek Chorus’ in the presentation. Talk to us about how this could work with local performers, performance groups, and schools.

Notes from William Zappa

Originally commissioned in 2012 by ABC Radio Drama moments before it was abolished, I have been working on my adaptation for seven years.  I wanted something for actors to read and an Australian ear to hear.

The story is a monument to the pain and futility of war. To the glory we perceive it can give. To the destructive power of pride and arrogance. And even further, it really just takes a single theme – the fury of Achilles. Pride and honour immobilise Achilles from battle for most of the story, and his obsession with a warrior’s glory and infamy eclipse any insight.

Homer’s great masterpieces are from an oral tradition of storytelling. They were meant to be heard. The Iliad was orally transmitted by guilds of professional reciters to finally be written by Homer or arguably a group of Homers – almost the first wiki and the sum of its whole as a text spoken, written, with additions, corrections and deletions.

The Iliad is the first great book of the Western tradition, and the first great book about the suffering and loss of war. Many wishing to make sense of wars in their own time have reached for The Iliad.

‘The Iliad still has much to say about war, even as it is fought today. It tells us that war is both the bringer of renown to its young fighters and the destroyer of their lives. It tells us about post-conflict destruction and chaos; about war as the great reverser of fortunes. It tells us about the age-old dilemmas of fighters compelled to serve under incompetent superiors. It tells us about war as an attempt to protect and preserve a treasured way of life. It tells us, too, about the profound gulf between civilian existence and life on the front line; about atrocities and indiscriminate slaughter; about war’s peculiar mercilessness to women and children; about friendships and sympathies across the battle lines. It tells us of the love between soldiers who fight together. Most of all, it tells us about the frightful losses of war: of a soldier losing his closest companion, of a father losing his son.’
from Caroline Alexander’s, The War that Killed Achilles – the True Story of Homer’s Iliad and the Trojan War.