Posts Tagged ‘Homer’s Odyssey’

Simon Armitage has cleverly adapted Homer’s Odyssey with a modern setting. In the original, it’s ten years since the fall of Troy and Odysseus hasn’t returned to Ithaca. His palace where wife Penelope and son Telemachus wait has ben overrun by a rowdy mob. Unbeknown to them, he is having a nightmare journey involving imprisonment, attack by a Cyclops, sirens and storms.

In Armitage’s version, Odysseus is cabinet minister Smith in a government about to fight an election. The PM (Zeus) sends him to Istanbul to watch England play Turkey in a World Cup qualifier, despite his protestations that he’ll miss his son Magnus’ (Telemachus) 18th. He gets caught up in a post-match bar room brawl trying to stop England fans attack a Muslim girl but photographed looking as if he’s the attacker. Running away, his journey home (Ithaca) begins and it of course mirrors the journey of Odysseus. Back in the UK, his political colleagues are preparing to disown him and his wife (Penelope) to sell her story to the highest bidding paparazzi (rowdy mob!) which she has invited into her home. During this, Magnus is reading the book he has been for his birthday by the PM’s aide – The Odyssey.

It’s all very clever and it’s also very funny, but I failed to see the point of the adaptation. It starts well, but as it progresses it does seem ever more contrived, implausible and preposterous. That said, it does entertain and you can’t help but admire it. Colin Tierney is excellent as Smith / Odysseus and Simon Dutton is perfect as the PM. I really liked Polly Frame as the PM’s aide / daughter and there’s good support from the other eight actors. It’s simply staged by Nick Bagnall who uses the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse well, though it doesn’t need this space (and has played other very different ones on tour).

An inventive and entertaining evening, but not an essential one.

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