Brighton Fringe 2013
Sleeping Trees take the Odyssey and turn it upside down and shake it in a very funny improvised, but very tight, show. They are a three man troupe with well defined and realised physical comedy, a great range of voice and characterisation. It’s a fast paced show, lots of laughs.
There’s always something satisfying about a well hijacked classic and Sleeping Trees’ brand of storytelling and physical comedy twists and molests the Odyssey, adding a hilarious sub-plot involving Homer himself, Ares God-of-war, and Ares’ sidekick, a nervous work experience god. It works so much better than you would expect – three men on stage in white trousers and (non-matching) white t-shirts on a bare stage with no props, and very bright lighting. Rooted in improvisation, sound effects are inventively supplied by the cast as appropriate. The song of the sirens develops such a nice base line that Odysseus begins to be very taken with them at last – but I won’t spoil the plot of this top notch botched attempt at sailing past the mythical singers.
The sub – plot is engaging. Hades wishes to know the secrets of the gods, so sends Ares and aforementioned side-kick to capture him. But they in turn are captured by his storytelling, and this revised Odyssey is played out before us, the cast fluidly moving between Homer/Ares/sidekick and Odysseus, Patroclus & Achilles – or in the Cyclops scene, Odysseus and co. and a band of very angry Cyclops. Some nice conceits here – The Cyclops community meeting was very funny in itself, not just because the idea of cyclops having meetings is funny, but because it resonates with anybody who has been to “consultations” that only further the agenda of the head Cyclops in your organisation/community. Nice touch.
I guess you would need some familiarity with Homer’s Odyssey and Iliad to get all the jokes, but the great thing about good physical comedy is that it transcends its subject. It’s enough to be told that Ares is a God of War to laugh at his transition into small boy listening mode when Homer starts to recount his tale. There are some great comic moments with crossing the Lethe, and I think Cerberus , the three headed dog that guards the Gates of Hell, was transformed into a (fierce looking)machine that asks for the password. The fact that the password is “Give us a kiss” works, whatever you know about the Gates of Hell in Greek mythology.
Physically Sleeping Trees are very good, their voices and transitions are perfect, but above all they are very, very funny. The audience laughed throughout (and it was a full one). Great to see proof that improvised rehearsal can still produce great ideas and great shows. See it to find out what Penelope and Telemachus (the latter metamorphosed into the aware but infantilised Ricky) were really up to while Odysseus was away.