The Odyssey

Nina Segal
Unicorn Theatre
Unicorn Theatre

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Kimmy Edwards as Muse, Shaka Kalokoh as Telemachus and Cerys Marie Burton as Muse Credit: Manuel Harlan
Shaka Kalokoh as Telemachus Credit: Manuel Harlan
Shaka Kalokoh as Telemachus Credit: Manuel Harlan
Cash Holland as Cyclops Credit: Manuel Harlan
Cerys Marie Burton, Cash Holland and Kimmy Edwards as Muses Credit: Manuel Harlan
Shaka Kalokoh as Odysseus and Cash Holland as Circe Credit: Manuel Harlan
Shaka Kalokoh as Telemachus Credit: Manue; Harlan

This lively take on Homer with its sixties sounding, shimmering dresses and Pan’s People-type choreography is aimed at an audience of 8- to 13-year-olds, and it isn’t actually the story of Odysseus. The hero of this telling is his son, Telemachus, and it is not the end story of how he and his father faced the men who been pestering his mother to marry one of them but a riff on the earlier episode when Athena sent Telemachus in search of his father, though in this telling, no gods seem to get a look-in unless I missed something in the opening number, which may have given a back story before my ears had tuned in to its speed and pitch (no problem for those young ears it is aimed at).

It is an adventure and “coming of age” tale that is told very directly with a cast of just four and Rosie Elnile’s simple staging of some glitter-covered steps, a pile of stones, a revolving shed that can become Telemachus’s Ithaca home or a cave for the Cyclops, the spectacular use of a wind machine and locations identified by projected titles.

Cash Holland’s Penelope is already besieged by the suitors and spends her days not at a loom but embroidering a wedding dress (which, as she explains to her son Telemachus, she unpicks every night so that it will never be ready). She is convinced that his father will return, but when Telemachus feels compelled to go and find him, she gives him her blessing, though as she tucks a cuddly blue rabbit into his backpack, it I clear that she still thinks of him as her little boy.

Telemachus (Shaka Kalokah) finds himself in a rowboat with two of the Muses (Cerys Burton and Kimmy Edwards), who love cake as much as he does. It is all a bit unfamiliar. “Your first time in a boat?” they ask him. First time in a boat, first time away from home, first time on a journey—and this is going to be a long one. But in no time at all, they arrive at ruined Troy, and he learns his dad did the destroying. It seems parents aren’r perfect, they can do bad things as well as good ones. But Odysseus isn’t there; Telemachus is directed onward.

Next stop is the island of one-eyed Cyclops: we can see that great eye at the mouth of his cave, and he is dangerous as he eats people, as the chatty sheep of his flock tell Telemachus. Fortunately, they also help to disguise him as a sheep, as his father did, to avoid that fate. The island of Lotus Eaters comes next, where people are so laid-back, they forget where they come from, and then on to encounter witch Circe (who prefers to be called an enchantress), colourful Caribbean Calypso, the sirens and some deep ocean dangers, even a visit to ancient Tiresias, who knows everything and survives in the Underworld in an NHS gown and on a drip before Telemachus completes his round trip.

Dramatist Nina Segal reinterprets the legend very freely, but with Kalokoh’s engaging Telemachus at its centre, its target audience get caught up in it, though if it is on their curriculum, I hope their teachers will encourage them to discover the differences.

Cash Holland makes Penelope a vivacious but tender mum to Telemachus, and if you think she is left behind in Ithaca, take a closer look at Cyclops, Circe, Calypso and Tiresias, for she is having fun playing all of them, while the Muses sometimes also disappear to pop up in other roles.

Jennifer Tang’s direction makes use of Naomi Hammerton’s fast-tempo song setting and Chi-San Howard’s choreography to move things forward, and the whole company contribute to making things joyful. Not quite your Homer but great fun.

Reviewer: Howard Loxton

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