Theatre review: Homer’s Odyssey

The image of captivity litters Homer’s Odyssey, and is keenly represented in Loucas Loizou’s staging of the Greek mythology, casting himself as Odysseus. The production unfolds within the ruins of an enclosure, its walls exposing crumbling brick and ancient decay, with no door or windows in sight. In this digital event, the camera is fixed throughout the 60-minute piece, so that we become another of his spectators gathering here every night to listen to the King of Ithaca, now an old man, tell the tales of his earlier days.

Interspersing his narrative with a series of (mostly original) songs, sung with the accompaniment of exquisite guitar-playing, Odysseus takes us from before the Trojan War to his eventual return home 20 years later. We all know the plot of this epic lore, but what counts in any adaptation is the emotional veracity exhibited by the actors; and, in this, Loizou excels, as he imagines and lets us into his character’s mind through music and story-telling.

Loizou is a passionate and talented singer-songwriter, who, as a Greek-Cypriot refugee since 1974, has himself a compelling background filled with adversity, resilience, and passion. His smooth, mellifluous voice shapes the inner world of this fabled figure, immersing us in Odysseus’ feelings and thoughts during his legendary adventures.

We encounter with him the harrowing episode with the Cyclopes, his departure from Circe, the amazing tunes of the Sirens; we muse over his seven love-making years with Calypso, recognise the generosity of Athena, and hear how he defeated the suitors vying for Penelope’s hand.

Without visual atmospherics, despite the dilapidated set and Loizu’s flowing-white gown and hair-dress, we miss the sweeping effects of this chronicle, which Loizou describes in contemporary language, with little literary flourish. But, no Odyssey is perfect. And this one is visceral, different, and good. If we have to spend our days captive in our own homes, hardly much else can rival being captivated by Loizou’s melodies that recount this timeless classic.