Review: The Odyssey, Derby Theatre

“Where shall we start?”

Homer’s epic poem The Odyssey is a cornerstone of Western literature and so unsurprisingly has endured and thrived as part of our cultural consciousness since the 8th century BC when it was composed. So its tale of soldier Odysseus’ 20 year absence from his home in Ithica due to the 10 years of the Trojan War and then a troublesome 10 year journey back feels an appropriate fit in the centenary year of the Great War, especially given Mike Kenny’s new version and Sarah Brigham’s inspired direction.

For this interpretation digs deep into both the psychological and practical effects of war. The first half asks searching questions about the nature of telling war stories, Odysseus’ recounting of his trials become a meditation on survivor guilt as he revisits decisions made in the heat of combat, the sacrifices he asked of his men, struggling to rationalise the huge losses incurred. And part two turns its view on those left behind and the difficulties they have to face in welcoming back someone who has been unutterably changed by their experiences. Continue reading “Review: The Odyssey, Derby Theatre”

Review: Blue Remembered Hills, Richmond Theatre

“That is the land of lost content”

You’d be forgiven for going with Beatrix if someone started talking about a story about children written by someone called Potter. But Blue Remembered Hills is the work of Dennis Potter, an altogether different proposition and indeed, Squirrel Nutkin would fear for his life even more than usual if he were present in this Forest of Dean setting. For this is no idyllic treatise on the joys of childhood but rather an acutely observed portrait of how brutal a time it can be and how difficult it is to cling to innocence.

Potter’s innovation here is to have his cast of seven 7-year-old characters played by adult actors. Spending a hot summer’s day in 1943 running up and down the grassy bank, playing at mummies and daddies or being aeroplanes, barely a care in the world one would think. But from the opening scene, any hint of a rose tinted glow is stripped away as the playwright lays bare a stark vision of society in all its viciousness, complexity and relentlessness – the group continually jostling for position to avoid the ignominy of being the last to be picked. Continue reading “Review: Blue Remembered Hills, Richmond Theatre”