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.

Theatre review: Shadow Piece-Alt. Shadow Love

Staging a play in which one or more characters is a shadow demands courage and cleverness. Indie artists, Antoinette Tracey and September Barker, take this adventurous route. They present Shadow Piece-Alt. Shadow Love at the Melbourne Fringe Festival as a digital event, taking the audience to the suburbs, rather than bringing the suburbs to the stage.

It is a balmy night. The single-fronted Victorian terrace would be inconspicuous by its familiarity had it not been for the second-storey lights and shadows behind the shades. Its ubiquity fits the universal nature of perceptions, relationships, and identity that are intricately layered here.

A Woman and a Man are having a heated argument, their black solid forms gesticulating wildly against the window coverings. In time, they find even ground and make up and go to bed. Tracey and Barker, themselves playing these parts, imbue the action with a mystic, surreal quality, that blurs the boundary between wakefulness and reverie, impression and reality. Scenes, in which the Woman finds herself interacting with a shadow, or when the Man confronts his partner’s alter-ego in a dream, weave a discombobulating spell.

This slice of life, without a definable plot, is depicted in a circular style. Bookended by the narrative, the work nestles its genesis in the middle act where we see Tracey and Barker conceive the creative concept with a group of friends. The combination of image, movement, sound illustrates the role of atmospherics and light and angle in affecting how the characters see each other, and see themselves, and, indeed, how the audience might in turn see them. Interestingly, because this is a filmed production, the cameraman wields considerable influence on our perspectives.

The drama is well acted, and the chemistry between The Woman and Man is convincing, although its intensity appears to be uneven as the story progresses. The enigma and ambiguity of the piece also makes it feel somewhat half-digested, not helped enough by the choice of music.

Yet, Shadow Piece-Alt. Shadow Love is worth watching, if only to witness Tracey’s nearly-ethereal dance towards the end when her independent Woman explores her relationship with the shadow of Barker’s Piano Man, her relationship with her circumstances, not least with herself.