ODYSSEY, 4****, London

by Phil Wilmott
original adaptation of Homer by Samuel Butler

4 Stars ****

The Scoop, City Hall, Queen’s Walk, London SE1 2AA to 7 September 2017.
Wed-Sun 6pm.
Runs 3h 30 mins Two intervals.

TICKETS: The Event is free but they pass the bucket.
Review: William Russell 18 August.

Gods, monsters, seductresses and bare chested heroes
The journeys of Odysseus returning from the Trojan war to his wife Penelope hindered by Poseidon, the sea god, are exciting to say the least and this open air production on the South Bank makes a pretty good stab at telling the story Homer put together. Written by the director Phil Wilmot, the language is clear and direct, the production inventive and brisk. It is essentially an animated comic book version of the story and none the worse for that, but at three and a half hours, including two intervals, far too long. Apart from anything else no cushion can totally dispel the bum numbing discomfort of those stone terraces beneath the looming glass walls of City Hall. Some cutting is required as not all Odysseus’s adventures which do get a bit repetitive – his crew misbehaves, a monster comes along, he beds or is bedded by an enchantress and the Gods watch and interfere – need to be included.

By the time he reaches Penelope, who has been fending off suitors galore, we are also treated to a side plot about their son Telemachus which could easily have been ditched. This is not Shakespeare and even he can be trimmed.

The nine strong cast, however, do a terrific job of creating the impression there are three times as many players involved, but, while the number is economically necessary, as time passes one starts to mix up just who it is each player is currently supposed to be. But there is a nice cut out set, the monsters are inventively conjured up – Scylla in particular – and there is a truly memorable turn from Adrian Decosta as Odysseus’s dog in Act One to relish. He could win Crufts.

As Odysseus Henry Wyrley-Birch is suitably strapping, devious and resolute, while Alec Porter impresses as a bare chested minstrel and the god Hermes and leaps about a lot . As for the rest, they act with a will, remember an awful lot of lines and change character seamlessly, while defying the goose pimples of a late summer night in a most praiseworthy manner. One rarely gets something for nothing, but here you get the goods – but put something in the bucket at the end. It is worth every penny – or piece of folding money – you can spare.

Toyin Ayedun-Alase.
Lawrence Boothman.
Molly Crookes.
Adrian Decosta.
Lincoln James.
Rebecca Layoo.
Alec Porter.
Paul Taylor.
Henry Wyrley-Birch.

Director: Phil Wilmott.
Movement Director: Francesca Bridge-Cicic.
Assistant Director: Justin Murray.
Assistant Choreographer: Viola Bruni.
Set Designer: Philip Eddolls.
Costume Designer: Penn O’Gara.
Composition and Sound Designer: Theo Holloway.
Lighting Designer: Phil Supple.

2017-08-21 16:01:30

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