Friday, 16 March 2012

Odyssey by Andreas Litras, March 15, 2012, ***1/2

Odyssey by Andreas Litras
Identity Theatre
The Open Stage, Parkville,  March 15 to 31, 2012
Reviewer: Kate Herbert
Stars: ***1/2
 Andreas Litras in Odyssey

IN HIS SOLO SHOW, ODYSSEY, ANDREAS LITRAS uses Homer’s Ancient Greek, epic poem about the fraught voyages of Odysseus to illuminate his own family’s journey from Greece to Australia.

The play, directed skilfully by John Bolton, began its own journey in the 1990s and now returns for those who missed it before it went on its international travels.

Litras creates an intimate relationship with us, addressing the audience directly as both himself and an older, Greek bloke who prepares the stage for the performance.

In the style of ‘Poor Theatre’, the stage is sparsely decorated with three hinged frames that establish locations in Greece and Australia, aboard ship, a chip shop, the walls of Troy, Cyclops’ cave and Circe’s island.

Using both tragedy and comedy, Litras peoples the stage with a parade of characters from his family and from the ancient the legendary hero’s 20-year voyage.

As the older character, Litras relates the tale of Odysseus and it is here that his polished clown skills are employed to depict the Battle of Troy and the Trojan Horse, Odysseus’s confrontation with Cyclops, Circe and the Sirens.

His inventive depiction of Odysseus in the Underworld is performed behind the lid of a suitcase where, in rapidly applied white-face, he changes character with a wig, a crown or a moustache.

As himself, he narrates his parents’ migration to Australia, finding comedy in his father’s cheeky behaviour, his mother’s arrival as a proxy bride and the extended family’s obsession with fish and chips shops.

Litras tempers the comedy with darker, poignant moments such as his father’s death, his mother praying to saintly icons, images of his father gambling and smoking or being called a wog.

Weaving the legend with autobiography, memory with imagination, comedy with tragedy, Litras creates a moving piece of theatre and history in this little gem.

By Kate Herbert

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