Local theatre group Black Martini Productions are back at FRINGE WORLD 2022 with their take on the Odyssey, Homer’s epic poem dating from the eleventh century BC. This is a madcap, frenzied, improv-style telling of the story drawing on the successful formula used for Troy Story, their version of the Iliad.
The Odyssey has inspired some great works in literature such as James Joyce’s Ulysses and in the movie world such as Coen Brothers’ ‘Oh Brother Where Are Thou?’. Such revered source material could have weighed heavily on the staging but Thomas Dimmick and team have brushed lightly in depicting the themes recorded by Homer.
Homer’s poem is divided into 24 chapters and this performance focuses on the most exciting and fun escapades as Odysseus journeys back to Ithaca at the conclusion of the Trojan Wars, but perhaps a shame they chose not to make something of Penelope’s reunion with her husband as they could have had a lot of fun with that.
The themes are universal covering matters such as love, war, family, temptation, honour and are brought to life with several pop culture references to watch out for including a choice titbit from Monty Python.
Thomas is joined on stage by Erin Craddock, Grace Edwards and Hock Edwards, the latter playing the central character Odysseus. All bring earnestness and high energy to their various roles without any change of costumes but making liberal use of cardboard. And somehow this simplicity makes sense as Homer’s work was really just a setting down of stories originally told orally.
The presentation of Odysseus himself was not particularly heroic but rather a very human self-absorbed moody bugger with foibles and idiosyncracies.
One slight quibble is that I would have liked the actors to focus more on projection, as at times they resorted to shouting which meant that some of the important nuances in the language were lost.
Overall it was an enjoyable performance which doesn’t require any great knowledge of Homer’s work, but would certainly make you want to discover a bit more about Cyclops and Calypso, Scylla and Charybdis.