Theatre review: The Odyssey, Tapac

By Janet McAllister

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The Odyssey, Tapac
The Odyssey, Tapac

What an inspired idea, devising a staging of The Odyssey with teenagers and children. Such a rich story with so many islands and one-episode characters gives everyone a chance to shine, and in between times, it's all hands on deck as an ever-morphing chorus of sailors, warriors and handmaidens.

The result is energetic, inventive and humorous. Company of Giants directors Laurel Devenie and Katy Maudlin keep up the tempo by splitting the narrative between Odysseus' journey and Penelope's and Telemachus' struggles with the suitors (ignoring the differing timeframes) and mixing up the storytelling methods.

The dysfunctional family of the gods is acid comic relief, keeping the human family apart. Hermes rides a bike and sings beautifully through a loud-hailer.

The god-human relationship becomes the god-human-animal interaction: sailors become pigs, hide among sheep and eat the Sun God's cattle. Goats act like humans.

The costumes and monsters are suggested rather than fully formed, and the organised chaos aesthetic mirrors the epic's organised chaos.

In the middle of the stripped-down theatre is a stripped-down van, wheeled around to great effect as the Trojan Horse, several doomed ships, and the entrance to the Cyclops' cave.

At the beginning, the humour and action is black and casual: "I didn't see you get out of the horse," one warrior says to another. "I killed, like, heaps of people!" comes the retort.

The tempo is slowed near the end of the 150-minute show, highlighting Odysseus' impatience to get home and frustration with the doddery Phaeacians.

You don't have to know the story at all to be entertained; this is a great group achievement that will continue to evolve, keeping it lively.

What: Odyssey

When: Until June 30

Where: Tapac, Western Springs

- NZ Herald

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