Saturday, 8 October 2005

The Odyssey adapted from Homer, Malthouse, Oct 8, 2005

The Odyssey by Tom Wright adapted from Homer 
Malthouse Theatre

Melbourne Festival
Malthouse Workshop, CUB Malthouse, Oct 8 until Oct 23, 2005

Reviewer: Kate Herbert on Oct 8

The profound yearning for and instinct to return home is the driving passion of this adaptation of The Odyssey. The need for home is universal and the obstacles to finding it are myriad.

The production, written by Tom Wright and directed by Michael Kantor, is epic in form as well as content. Odysseus (Stephen Phillips) journeys for many years, a victim of Poseidon's wrath, the vagaries of the winds and the motivations of those he encounters on each island on his wayward journey.

The cavernous factory-like workshop space at the Malthouse is converted into a performance space. Anna Tregloan's impressive design echoes the industrial building by using roof height metal scaffold and ladders with a circular metal grille on the ground.

Actors perform on the grille that is built over water. Its revolving action cunningly replicates the ship's movement and the swell of the ocean.

Kantor creates the monsters of Odysseus's travels in many ways. They appear physically through a huge, rusted door, or metaphorically in a cacophonous soundscape (David Franzke), original music (Iain Grandage) or dramatic lighting (Paul Jackson).

Four actors play Odysseus's exhausted and despairing sailors (Paul Blackwell, Francis Greenslade, Leon Ewing, Benjamin Lewis). The women play all the kindly and nefarious gods, beasts and sirens. (Belinda McClory, Rita Kalnejais, Margaret Mills, Suzanne McDonald).

McDonald plays Odysseus's protector, the Goddess Anthena, as a playful, golden-haired  child offering childlike advice. This interpretation of the virgin warrior goddess is strangely illuminating and magical in the hands of the luminous McDonald.

Narration by Homer, (Kris McQuade) links the scenes and resonant and evocative violin and song is performed by Jessica Ipkendanz. (OK) Her music of the sirens is transporting.

Each episode of Odysseus's travails is wrought in a lyrical and metaphoric style. The lotus-eaters are drugged by opium poppies, Cyclops is perceived only in operatic light and sound, a chorus line of women plays the denizens of the Island of the Winds. The sirens are anonymous brides, the cannibals squealing pig-like children and the witch goddess, Circe, is dressed as a German soldier.

The scenes with Odysseus's two lovers, Calypso, the half-god, (Mills) and Nausicaa, (Kalnejais) are the least effective. The opening of the play with these is confusing and confused.

The Odyssey is visually and aurally rich and evocative. It boasts a distinguished cast and is an inventive, often inspired adaptation of Homer's Odyssey.

By Kate Herbert

No comments:

Post a Comment