by Caroline Horton.

Derby Theatre (Rehearsal Room) DE1 2PL To 1 March 2014.
6.15pm 26, 27 Feb, 1 March.
10pm 21, 22, 28 Feb.
Runs 50min No interval.

TICKETS: 01332 593939.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 20 February.

A voice for the girl he left behind.
There will be several RETOLD stories while Sarah Brigham is Artistic Director at Derby. It’s a splendid idea, creating short, one-woman pieces in which writers look at established stories from the viewpoint of a female participant.

Writers and actors, for Caroline Horton finely embodies her own Penelope, wife of Homeric hero Odysseus. She becomes a woman plugged-in to modern history. The patient weaver and unweaver of tapestry, nightly undoing the job the conclusion of which will force her to remarry, becomes an army wife, subject to a kaleidoscope of emotions seen in the play’s montage.

There’s Penelope, the General’s wife, keeping-up spirits, Penelope joining in the army wives’ social activities, completing a popular questionnaire, or sending cheery video-messages to the boys besieging Troy.

Then, instantaneously changing tone there’s sad Penelope, angry Penelope whose life is passing without contact from her husband (Homer could hardly have created modern means of communication between troops and families), desolate Penelope, all swept-up in the tides of emotion over two decades of separation.

The tiny acting space created in Derby Theatre’s rehearsal room is dominated by a bed too large for one. From its elaborate bedclothes Penelope emerges, like a creature from the sea – its oceanic moods detailed in the rare humorous moment of an Ancient Athenian shipping forecast, and which can be seen on the screen by her side.

At first she might be the creation of a Jean Cocteau studio – a delicate, fragile, blond, magical creature. But the gentle dress is tarnished in more than one place, more complex emotions merge, which become the fiercer feelings of someone who has emerged from the chrysalis of social expectations and whose expressive features seem to change from porcelain purity to the ash-cold grey of long experience.

Till she finally kicks away the bed-sheets and steps forward to independence – or to collapse; a final blackout leaves the matter open.

The piece companions Mike Kenny’s main-house Odyssey, which itself creates space to consider Penelope’s situation. But Horton’s monologue articulates her voice more widely, linking the ancient character more specifically with the lives of military wives today.

Penelope: Caroline Horton.

Director: Lucy Doherty.
Designer: Tim Heywood.

2014-02-22 12:26:40

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