by Homer in a new version by Mike Kenny.
Derby Theatre 15 Theatre Walk St Peter’s Quarter DE1 2NF To 1 March 2014.
Mon-Sat 7.30pm except 25 Feb 10.30am Mat Thu & Sat 2.30pm.
Audio-described 26 Feb, 1 Mar 2.30pm.
BSL Signed 27 Feb 7.30pm 1 Mar 2.30pm.
Post-show Discussion 27 Feb 7.30pm.
Runs 2hr One interval.
TICKETS: 01332 593939.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 20 February.
Moves swiftly towards a powerful culmination.
Homer’s two works each cover a decade in the life of a protagonist confusingly called both Odysseus and Ulysses. After ten years’ war to recover Helen of Troy to Greece (told in the tale of Troy, or Ilium, as The Iliad) came Odysseus’ 10-year journey home, giving a future civilisation the word, as well as the title, Odyssey.
It’s a tall order to turn ten years into two hours’ traffic of the stage on a rep theatre budget. Even for the prolific Mike Kenny, who’s used to small means doing surprising things in his plays for young people, which make eight actors and a set that stays in the same room for several weeks seem high luxury.
But there are difficulties. The language – simple, direct – that suits much of Kenny’s other work seems inadequate for this “great accompt”. At times a muse of verbal fire would have been helped. Dialogue which declares views or feeling frankly works well for the young; here it seems like the circumvention rather than creation of character.
Wolf Sawyerr is a strong Odysseus, a leader through intelligent response and anticipation as well as force of character and physical strength. But the various episodes slip by, with only occasional theatrical heightening to make an impact – like the Siren song spoken from the side of the audience by a grey-bearded Ivan Stott with a wordless female voice singing behind.
Like Barney George’s multi-purpose wooded island set, Stott’s often-haunting score helps unify the action, which changes focus after the interval, giving nearly as much time to Penelope, Odysseus’ wife fending-off aggressive suitors telling her he is dead. When it turns out he isn’t there’s a reckoning with these bullies, in which their son Telemachus takes a weak man’s revenge.
Crowning the whole is the final, cautious reconciliation with the warrior whose life has changed and the woman who’s learned to trust no-one, Sarah Brigham’s production is at its best here. Emma Beattie registers Penelope’s warinessafter years of disappointment culminating in this shock. Post-traumatic stress, relationships under stress, suddenly come into sharp focus at the end of this slower, more humanly probing act.
Penelope: Emma Beattie.
Telemachus/Lotus/Hermes/Ensemble: Rich Dolphin.
Aeolus/Antinous/Ensemble: Adam Horvath.
Eurymachus/Cyclops/Zeus/Ensemble: Christopher Pri ce.
Odysseus: Wolf Sawyerr.
Alcinous/Eumaeus/Hepheastus/Suitor/Ensemble: Ivan Stott.
Naussica/Circe/Melantho/Artemis/Ensemble: Ella Vale.
Eurykleia/Cyclops 2/Demeter/Ensemble: Anna Westlake.
Director: Sarah Brigham.
Designer: Barney George.
Lighting: Tim Skelly.
Sound/Composer: Ivan Stott.
Fight director: Ian Stapleton.
Assistant director: Lucy Doherty.