The Odyssey
By John Murrell
Adapted from the epic poem by Homer

Directed by Jack Paterson

Composer and Sound Jeff Tymoschuk Choreographer Melissa Young Fight Director Nick Harris Sets Al Frisk Costumes Barbara Clayden Lighting Darren Boquist Stage Manager Danielle Fecko

Dates and Venue 13 April – 5 May 2007 @ The Waterfront Theatre

Reviewer Jane Penistan

John Murrell has written his version of Homer’s Odyssey for children. From now on, any child who sees this production at The Waterfront will not be able to say “The Classics are dull.” This performance is full of fun, moves at a rattling pace and is filled with action, movement, humour, and surprises.

The multitude of costumes are colourful, and expressive of the various characters who stride, cavort or, dance across the stage. The wrecked ship with its seeing eye, ragged sails, and well-used spars and rigging provide for active sailing and a reminder of the power of Poseidon.

The backcloth skyscape panorama is of tranquil sunlight or black clouds riven with the lightning of violent storms. Athena’s logo appears in the sky when she is at hand to assist or protect the “Wily Odysseus” and his mates. Tumultuous waves of the Aegean are choreographed with sea green streamers whirled about the stage by fleet footed actors. Sound and lighting add atmosphere, noise, and music to enhance the many swift scenes and environment changes in this exciting story.

Nine actors play more than two dozen characters, transforming from one to another with the aid of costume, mask, or just good acting and body language. Tobias Slezak has the luxury of one role throughout, that of Odysseus, who is rarely off stage. So too, does Lisa Bunting, as Athena, the goddess who protects Odysseus and his crew in the many perils and mishaps of their long voyage home from Troy to Ithaca.

Not all immortals are as caring as Athena for the sailors who are at the mercy of the enraged Poseidon, god of the Sea, or blown by the four winds of Aeolus, which they misguidedly let loose from an imprisoning sack. When the sailors are swept ashore they are imprisoned by the giant Cyclops, Polyphemus (Joshua Reynolds) and only escape by depriving him of his one eye and then outwitting him.

Voyaging once more, they are seduced by Circe (Teryl Rothery) on her pleasant island, a place of pleasure and leisure, whence they escape once more to steer their battered ship between the dangers of Scylla and Charybdis, the splintering rock and the swirling whirlpool.

At home in Ithaca, Penelope (Samantha Madely) and her son Telemachus (Adam Bergquist) wait patiently for twenty years for the return of Odysseus. She is beset by an assortment of suitors, greedily wanting to rule in Ithaca. They try to convince her that her husband is dead and Telemachus a coward who will not seek his lost father. Ultimately, Odysseus alone returns alone to Ithaca. Disguised as a beggar he arrives at court and is recognized by Telemachus and his faithful hound Argos (Teryl Rothery) but not by the threatening suitors. All ends well with Odysseus united with his long suffering Penelope and Telemachus.

The standard of performance of all the cast is very high, and in this company it is difficult to select individuals. Allan Zinyk’s roles enable him to shine as a comedian whose timing, facial expression, and body language are technically superb and keep the audience laughing. The versatile Anthony F. Ingram presents four very different aristocratic characters, each a polished individual. He also appears with other members of the cast in a variety of unnamed bit parts.

Jack Paterson has been well served by his hardworking and very versatile cast. The ensemble playing is excellent, and the energy and pace of the production admirable. Odysseus is great entertainment for adults as well as children – no classical education required here and any reminiscences of dreary school primers will be dispelled in this hilarious telling of the wanderings of Odysseus.

© 2007 Jane Penistan