From the opening scene depicting drunken suitors encamped at Odysseus’ palace in Ithaca playing football and singing Sweet Caroline, the tone was set for a high-energy, fast-paced, creative performance of Hattie Naylor’s modern version of Homer’s Odyssey. With humorous touches and a succession of colourful characters, and yet also a poignancy and sensitivity, the audience followed Odysseus and his crew as they sought to return home after the Trojan War, facing many perils, struggles and temptations along the way.
The audience was fully immersed in a mythical world where gods as well as monsters and beasts regularly rub shoulders with our hapless hero and his crew. The fresh, clean lines of white columns and the repeating soundtrack of traditional Greek music, sounds of the sea and the squawking of seagulls captured the very essence and spirit of Greece and the Mediterranean. The demanding role of Odysseus (Ethan Logue) was portrayed with real maturity and conviction: from swashbuckling hero, to cunning leader, to sensitive husband. The ever-present and ever-clicking knitting Fates (Charlton Hume, Theo Patel and Oscar York) – “purl one, knit one” – provided the commentary for proceedings, as they oversaw the mortal action with their knitting needles. Indeed, the idiosyncratic and eccentric were never far from the surface, none more so than the flamboyant, quirky presence of Hermes the magician (Theo Odhams) with his bouquet of flowers!
Innovative staging was particularly successful with the muttering, unnerving, bone-crunching (and belching) depiction of the Cyclops through the ensembled company (Tom Allos et al.), complete with roving eye; the silhouetted revellers on Aeolus’ (Harry Gillian) island and silhouetted contest of the bow and shooting of the suitors; the storm-wrecked crew of Odysseus as their boat sank; the alluring presence of Circe’s attendants turning his men into pigs; and the drifting Shades in Hades creating a haunting atmosphere.
As Odysseus was reunited with Penelope in the palace, the audience showed its appreciation for a joint RGS and Guildford High School production which proved that The Odyssey’s appeal remains as enduring as ever: a tale of adventure, resilience, hope, love, and certainly lashings of fun. Truly epic!