Wednesday, 19 February 2014

The Odyssey - Derby Theatre

We're all more or less familiar with Homer's story of Odysseus who, after 10 years fighting the Trojans, spent another 10 years trying to make his way home. On this dreadfully long journey, at each island they land on,  he and his crew encounter new obstacles and temptations - a plant that makes you forget everything, a one-eyed man-eating monster, a witch who turns men into swine, the god who controls the wind  - quite a challenge to present on stage! Well, director Sarah Brigham and the set design team at Derby Theatre faced up to it and have done a marvellous job with this modern interpretation, written by award-winning playwright Mike Kenny.

The mood was set by a huge curtain representing crashing waves that billowed  in front of the stage while the audience took their seats - and was 'sucked' away to reveal an exhausted Odysseus washed ashore. From that moment, I was spellbound. There are some plays that no matter how good they are, still leave time for eyes to wander and attention to drift - not this one! It's fast-paced, bursting with energy, and absolutely brilliant from start to finish. The first half tells of Odysseus' journey and the weird and wonderful encounters along the way. The second tells his homecoming - and touches on the difficulties faced by soldiers returning to 'normal' life, both then and now.
Wole Sawyerr's Odysseus is outstanding - dominating the theatre with his presence and booming voice. The rest of the cast pop in and out of various roles; playing handmaidens and soldiers, sheep and pigs, Circe, Penelope or the simple but effective Cyclops.
The set changes quickly from ship to shore, from cave interior to palace, while the story continues around it - so there's none of those awkward scenery-shifting pauses.

Following on from the Derby Theatre production of Kes, The Odyssey proves just how good regional theatre can be. Who needs London?
I loved every minute - and might even sneak in a second visit.

Friday, 14 February 2014

Books for your Valentine...or maybe not....

I've seen people suggesting that for Valentine's Day, you buy something a little different - such as a book.
  Now, there are plenty of happy-ever-after romantic novels you might choose to pick up - I'd suggest Jane Austen's Persuasion, Charles Frazier's Cold Mountain or Audrey Niffenegger's The Time Traveller's Wife  - but how about something for us old cynics who no longer care for gushing sentimentality?
Here's three of the best 'getting your own back' novels from the last few months;

Top slot has to go to Natalie Young's Season To Taste - a dark, almost pitch black, comedy about 50-something, Volvo-driving housewife Lizzie Prain who takes a spade one day and murders her husband! As if that weren't enough, she then proceeds to dispose of the evidence by eating him... Not for the faint of heart or stomach
A less hand-on approach to revenge is preferred by Jodi, The Silent Wife. Left high and dry, and financially unstable when her partner leaves her for a much younger woman, Jodi turns to somewhat 'professional' help to solve her problems.

and then there's the really extreme way to get your own back.
Amy Elliott Dunne goes missing on her 5th wedding anniversary. Has she been abducted, murdered or just left of her own free will? Whichever, she's disappeared without trace. A Gone Girl. Her husband is the police's prime suspect but swears, of course, that he's innocent. So how can he explain his wife's disappearance? How evil, manipulative and twisted could she be?.....