Edinburgh Fringe 2018
Odysseus is on his way back home from the fall of Troy and on the way his journey takes in ten years of struggle to return whilst his wife Penelope and son Telemachus wait. Their lives are filled with their own battles which are as troubling as the physical battles of Odysseus. Odysseus takes on monsters, avoids the Sirens and navigates treacherous waters to get back to from whence he came.
With the script in iambic pentameter this has admirable qualities which are matched by an enthusiastic acting troupe who tackle a highly complex narrative. They have added the issues of gender-based violence on top as the almost wholly female company appear as many characters in the telling of the tale of one man trying to get home. On the way we have the well-thumbed classic of late 8th Century Greek mythology told with enthusiasm and not a little skill.
The problem with such an epic piece of storytelling is the scope and challenge that it brings but enthusiasm does not compensate for a lack of numbers. The multiple parts played by actor in this piece can be muddling and confusing. We also have the attempt to look at male violence on top which with only one man onstage is a very tough task. With such a well know story this can be forgivable as the audience are able to follow without too much of a road map but there is a need to hone down to the essentials if we are faced with numerous changes of character by the same actor.
I found the iambic pentameter was relied upon for meaning which is in no way a bad thing and gives the piece a rhythm but tended at times to let the actors down in expressing that meaning – we got lyrical poetry rather than the emotion of the moment. The meaning at time seemed to be a little beyond us and connections between characters were a little lost as we tried to work out who was who and why they behaved towards each other the way they did. Not a massive issue until you examine how successful they have been in matching how the publicity claims are for a more contemporary relevance.
The singing and music, once the initial few bars are realised was very good – just need to get into that zone with confidence as this company ah a lovely voice well worth hearing in song.
What was very clever were many of the scene changes and the costumes were used to very good effect. Mime and battle sequences lacked some finesse but in such a young company that was more than forgivable.
Lighting was effective though the scene changes with the tapping feet, at times, became less of a motif than I think they hoped and bordered on the irritating.
It would be patronising to call this a young company with much to learn and much to develop as there are many skills on show here. I saw some very decent actors who have put themselves in a huge shop window with vitality and ability clearly on show. Taking on an iambic pentameter piece within an arts festival that can feel less about the drama and more about the belly laughs is a tough choice to make but here it does mostly pay off. Some issues aside and with a little more clarity this would tell the tale with an interesting overlay about male violence in the current political climate well if they had more men to tell it which would add and not detract from the female compliment on show. Advertised as 65 minutes, I sat through 40 and to be fair would have felt the extra 25 minutes a bonus if they had been there to allow the story to flow and become a more effective and communicative vehicle for the story and their message.