DramaReviewSouth West

The Odyssey – Wardrobe Theatre, Bristol

Writer/Director: Nir Paldi
Writer/Performer: George Mann
Reviewer: Kris Hallett

A person walks across a space and another watches. This in essence, with a doff of a cap to Peter Brook, is theatre. The art-form has always encompassed a massive compendium of parts, for every big mass marketed spectacle, your Wickeds or Disney factory tent poles, you have works like this, a one-man retelling of an epic in the smallest of scale
tell-us-block_editedHow a show is judged critically ultimately boils down to how successfully it immerses us in the world it creates. In this respect, Theatre Ad Infinitum’s ambitious take on Homer’s poem is a straight flush.

LeCoq graduate George Mann, who takes on dual roles as performer and one half of the writing team here, had his thumbprint all over recent Bristol success story Pink Mist and a lot of that works most striking elements, can be clearly seen in this earlier 2009 work. In a little over an hour, he creates Homer’s world using just body and voice: showing us Gods, sirens and monsters; taking us on a long and bloody 10-year journey home for the warrior Odysseus and the parallel story of his loyal wife, Penelope, and son, Telemachus, in resisting the call of the suitors determined to marry her in the prolonged absence of her husband. It’s an impressive tour de force of a performance, with every role and place setting taking on its own unique physical leitmotif in Mann’s ever expressive body.

Whereas Mark Bruce’s dance theatre take on the tale earlier this year chucked everything but the kitchen sink at it, Theatre Ad Infinitum’s approaches it from another angle. It’s a stripping back to theatre’s essence, a man alone with only words and his physicality to guide him through the tale. It can be argued that an hour does not do full justice to the tale, that occasionally the characters are little more than cyphers, a saucy minx of a women here, a camp simpering villain there, but this would be to dismiss the fundamental strength of storytelling in a theatrical environment and the skill of a performer working at the top of his game to tell his tale.

Runs until 26 November 2016 | Image: John Rankin

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