Tuesday, 22 August 2017

Review The Odyssey

An adaptation of The Odyssey with a bijou cast and inventive outdoor staging delights Peter Barker.

The Odyssey
Adapted by Phil Willmott From Samuel Butler's Translation Of The Ancient Greek

More Hit Than Myth

Mythic characters from ancient Greek literature spring to life in this year's free open-air performance at The Scoop amphitheatre on the South Bank by London City Hall

The Odyssey is a Greek epic attributed to Homer. Now writer/director Phil Willmott has adapted Samuel Butler's Victorian translation and presents a fast-moving, enjoyable version of The Odyssey in three parts, each lasting one hour with intervals in between.

Unless London experiences a Greek summer weather-wise, warm clothing and a thermos of something hot or cash for food and drink stall purchases are recommended. Cushions and blankets are available for rental - otherwise again bring your own. 

The first part during the early evening, A Great Big Greek Adventure, is pitched at children.

Odysseus, the poet king of Ithaca, played by a muscular bearded Henry Wyrley-Birch, leads his band of warriors to victory against the Trojans before the homeward-bound journey to the strains of The Lightning Seeds's Three Lions with the words slightly adapted - "The Greeks Are Going Home".

The Power of Love, the second part at sunset leads us into the dangerous enchantments of the bewitching Sirens and seductive goddesses trying to tempt Odysseus and his ship’s crew who struggle to keep on course for Ithaca.

Finally night-time brings The Homecoming. Years have passed and Odysseus returns to Ithaca, only to have to fend off many suitors for Queen Penelope before reunion with his wife and the son who has grown up in his absence

Wilmott directs a pacey production with a versatile cast. Nine players playing multiple characters and breaking the fourth wall when they become a chorus commenting on events.

The three-level plywood set, painted with a map of the Aegean, designed by Philip Edolls has a pop-up feel. The styling with costumes by Penn O'Gara and the choreography of movement director Francesca Bridge-Cicic are also reminiscent of easy-to-understand cartoon versions of the Greek myths created for children,.

Staging, with lighting by Phil Supple and sound by composer Theo Holloway, is done with small resources but much imagination.

Odysseus and his crew's encounter with the many-headed sea monster Scylla - Lawrence Boothman - and the giant Cyclops - Lincoln James - encompasses inventive physical theatre as well as puppetry. Billowing blue sheets conjure up the clash with the sea god Poseidon while the battle where Queen Penelope's numerous suitors are driven off is both ingenious and magical.

Rebecca Laydoo is a dignified and beautiful Penelope while Adrian Decosta proves his versatility as Oydysseus's loyal son Telemachus while also winning the audience's hearts on all fours (mostly) as Odysseus's loyal playful dog Argos.

Molly Crookes makes a blonde and lithe goddess Athena and PK Taylor is both the sea witch Circe and Odysseus grown old. However the cast are an ensemble and plaudits must also go to Toyin Ayedun-Alase and Alec Porter who equally take on several different roles.

The Odyssey at The Scoop is certainly a pleasure to watch with an easy-going drop in and out ethos where anyone can choose to stay, leave and then even return again (like Odysseus!) at will.
This is fun evening, that passes far quicker than its three-and-a-half-hour running time. It's highly recommended for families, children and adults. And, just as good, it’s free, so it's definitely a green light!

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