72 actors to narrate Homer’s Odyssey

Published: 26 September 2020
Reporter: Howard Loxton

The Odyssey Credit: Jermyn Street Theatre/London Review Bookshop

We all know the story of Odysseus’s hazardous ten-year voyage home to Ithaca after the Trojan War, but how many have actually read it? I certainly have a version on my shelves, two translations in face, but I can't claim have read every page. I have connected most through dramatisations. On 9 October, you are offered another way to experience this ancient epic.

In 2017, a new translation came out: the first by a woman. It met critical approval with The Guardian suggesting that it would “change our understanding of it for ever.” Emily Wilson's new translation is the one that the Jermyn Street Theatre and London Review Bookshop have joined forces to present to be read through the day by a phalanx of 72 actors.

Starting at 9AM on the bookshop’s YouTube channel with the first of its 24 books, then at noon transmission transfers to Jermyn Street’s channel for the other 20. It’s a chance to get something akin to the way this great tale was originally told when the poet himself or some other bard recited his verses.

You won’t have to take it in at one sitting; it will all stay on YouTube for a week thereafter. As Jermyn Street Theatre’s Artistic Director Tom Littler suggests, viewers have the choice to “drop in and out throughout the day, catch up during the week, or devour the whole feast in a single day.”