mon 04/03/2024

Odyssey: A Heroic Pantomime, Charles Court Opera, Jermyn Street Theatre review - topsy-turvy Homer | reviews, news & interviews

Odyssey: A Heroic Pantomime, Charles Court Opera, Jermyn Street Theatre review - topsy-turvy Homer

Odyssey: A Heroic Pantomime, Charles Court Opera, Jermyn Street Theatre review - topsy-turvy Homer

Five heroic women and two instrumentalists go Hellenic, with panache

Lady Circe (Rosie Strobel) and her piggy-wigs rock itAlex Brenner

This is the show that launched a thousand puns, mostly ancient-Greek-oriented, and just as many corny rhymes, all delivered with high energy and greeted with joyful groans. To say it’s no epic is a compliment: Charles Court Opera’s boutique pantos rely upon perfect focus in small spaces, and this is a tight little craft, with five brilliant women firing up director/writer John Savournin’s script and David Eaton’s musical arrangements.

The gods aren’t happy with stagnation in Ithaca and Odysseus so far from home. The delivery service from Tamoy Phipps’ easily dispirited Hermes/Mercury has a surprising result: Penelope (Emily Cairns) stops sitting at home waiting and spinning, and sets out with resident horse Trojan (Meriel Cunningham, the three pictured below) – to find out the unlikely reason for a Trojan horse being on a Greek island, you’ll have to hear the song – to rescue her husband from the clutches of Circe (Rosie Strobel) – boo! – and her penchant for piggy-wigs. The first encounter, with Polyfefifofumnus (Amy J Payne) yields surprising results, not least a (wo)man-and-beast romance that evokes another aspect of Greek mythology.

Scene from Odyssey: A Heroic PantomimeWhat more can I add without giving too much of the game away? It has to be declared that Circe’s sister Scylla is not as she’s spelled, and hosts a game show with game members of the audience trying to model the Discobolos in 30 seconds – the point at which constant fun and admiration reach hysteria pitch – and that other beasts are drafted in from non-Homeric tales to take the story forward in Act Two (cue my favourite of the hit songs adapted to Hellenic ends, completely barking). Eaton and percussionist Dave Jennings even get to croak the croaking chorus from The Frogs of Aristophanes.

Stewart J Charlesworth’s day-glo designs, variously lit by Ben Pickersgill, work superbly within a limited budget. All five performers execute Blair Anderson’s choreography with as much panto style as they sing (there are some seriously good voices here, not all operatic). Savournin manages to squeeze in every panto opportunity, brilliantly so in fun participation when a blind hero needs to chop off the head of Medusa, and the denouement, which involves what comes out of the backside of hitherto constipated Trojan, is suitably nuts. A special mention for the admirable set-up of the Jermyn Street Theatre – my first visit in years – and its fabulous front-of-house people. Even the programme is classy. Top notch.

Circe’s sister Scylla hosts a game show with game members of the audience trying to model the Discobolos in 30 seconds

rating

Editor Rating: 
4
Average: 4 (1 vote)

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