Brighton Fringe 2010
Grafted Cede Theatre and Theatre Temoin
Venue: Upstairs at Three and Ten
This is a physical, highly visual contemporary retelling of The Odyssey. It is much more accessible and engaging than that might sound at first and you don’t need detailed knowledge of Homer’s epic to appreciate the story. I laughed out loud, gasped with horror, spontaneously applauded a particularly amazing transformation part way through, and myself and my theatre companion were both suddenly moved to tears at the end.
Grant is a soldier just returned from battle. Physically he is home with his partner Penny, but in every other sense he’s still fighting monsters and demons from his combat days to get there. Sometimes seduced into losing his way, as in the funny short scene that opens the play and the addictive computer game that follows, but more often haunted by memories of brutality that he can’t share with his wife, Grant’s psychological homecoming is going to take time.
The staging is simple – a white modern bath tub dominates the set. In the story the plughole is blocked and Penny is tired of waiting for her husband to ‘come back’ and at least fix the blockage in the drain. I have never seen a bath tub or its drain create so many surprises in the theatre (or outside it). Grant’s torment begins with a battle with the undead, come to life out of his computer game. This brings the story right up to date and is both funny and indicative of Grant’s traumatised mental state. My only question is whether it sets up a false expectation for the play at this early stage, as the computer game and zombies are a strong contemporary reference point that doesn’t recur later – though other dead spirits take their place.
Will Pinchin plays Grant as a very convincing young traumatised soldier. His physicality is both strong and vulnerable and his movements and facial expression flit through a wide range of emotions. His partner Penny is played by Dorie Kinnear who performs some breathtaking transformations that immerse the audience in the story at an immediate emotional level. Although Grant is the central character, it is Dorie Kinnear who plays all the other parts in this production, ranging from a dead soldier to a pig to a woman in a battle zone.
Ailin Conant’s direction encourages an openness in the cast that makes them so engaging and moving as performers. The sound design of composer Otto Muller is a very strong element in this production and helps to create the mood of each part of Grant’s journey. The production incorporates all the inventiveness of physical theatre, using simple props that become so much more. I don’t want to give too much away, but watch out for the saw, and also the watermelon. Movement director Robin Guiver helps the cast achieve an extraordinary moment in the revolving embrace towards the end, and also in the final image, which is a perfect inversion of the opening.
If there is a flaw in the movement aspect of the play, it is when mime is briefly involved and there could be clearer definition here. All in all, the emotional journey is truthful and connects with the audience. I am already recommending my friends to see this. It deserves a much bigger audience than was present at its opening performance.