11:24 Tuesday 18 February 2014

Review: The Odyssey, Derby Theatre

Written byNIGEL POWLSON

DERBY Theatre’s dip into the Greek myths has brought us a fresh, boisterous and accessible new stage work.

Homer’s The Odyssey is a 3,000-year-old slice of epic storytelling, detailing the journey back home of warrior Odysseus 20 years ater leaving for the Trojan Wars. Mike Kenny’s adaptation splits the story into two parts. Before the interval we are swept away on a sea of dreams as Odysseus fights the one-eyed Cyclops, resists the call of the Sirens and battles the will of Poseidon as he fights his way home. In the second half, we see Odysseus landing on home shores and finding his wife and son fending off a string of warriors looking to replace the returning hero.

A visually impressive affair fom the moment the billowing curtain descends on the action like a sail caught on the breeze, The Odyssey is a credit to designer Barney George.

Director Sarah Brigham offers us a physical, swiftly moving production that gallops vigorously and with a good deal of humour through the highlights of Homer’s episodic work.

There’s also a fine Shakespearean swagger to Wole Sawyerr’s performance as Odysseus and plenty of conviction and heart in Emma Beattie’s portrayal of Penelope.

Staged with thoughts of the First World War centenary in mind, if the production does have a flaw it’s that it doesn’t resonate as well with the theme of returning war heroes through time as it might. Odysseus is still capable of taking on all comers rather than arriving back home as the burnt out shell we associate with the trenches. But that matters little when this Odyssey has such a great grasp of Homer’s rich narrative. A Greek triumph rather than a Greek tragedy.

At Derby Theatre until March 1. Go to www.derbytheatre.co.uk or call 01332 593939.

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