27-31 October 2015
Reviewed by Laura Wragg
Simon Armitage’s updated take on one of the oldest works in western literature sees Colin Tierney playing Smith, an up and coming politician in the ruling party with an election looming. When sent to Turkey to show support for the England football team, he gets caught up in a fatal bar brawl and by means of escape, jumps into the sea. From here on in, he is no longer Smith but Odysseus, no longer a 21st century politician, but an ancient Greek warrior, and we are no longer watching one, but two plays.
While in one scene we’re following Odysseus’ adventures as he makes his way back to his family, in an abridged version of the classic tale, in the next we are transported back to the modern world to witness the unfolding scandal in Westminster surrounding the missing politician and its effects on his family. There are parallels here between the two tales: I liked the substitution of the suitors surrounding Penelope for paparazzi. Much of the time though, sadly, it feels disjointed. Smith’s 18 year old son, segueing between scenes, reluctantly reading passages from the original poem by way of reminding the audience what’s happening perhaps?
There are some great and very funny moments here and the cast are all fantastic. I particularly enjoyed Simon Dutton’s portrayal of a xenophobic Prime Minister. His monologue in the first half raging against Europe is brilliant. You’re certainly in no doubt as to where the writer’s politics lie with several characters highlighting right with attitudes to immigration. There’s even a mention of “Pig-Gate”!
Brighton’s magnificent Theatre Royal was as welcoming as ever. Well organised and friendly staff that seem genuinely happy to be there. It’s just a shame the production, though enjoyable enough, doesn’t quite hit the mark.
Tickets cost from £11.90 to £37.90 (plus £2.85 transaction fee).
The Odyssey is at the Theatre Royal in Brighton until 31 October 2015. For more information or to book tickets to click here or call the box office on 0844 871 7650.
Theatre Royal. New Road, Brighton, East Sussex, BN1 1SD | 0844 871 7650