As theatrical events go, this is unusual. I’m wearing a set of goggles, a plastic poncho and a sparkly shower cap. I’m stumbling across a stage while the cast spray me with water pistols and throw ping pong balls at my head and I’m trying to get Odysseus (who is depicted by a wooden spoon with a smily face drawn on it) to the safety of a rubber ring. And I can’t complain, because I volunteered for this.
Welcome to The Odyssey as presented by Splendid Productions. When it comes to making a hoary old legend accessible for a wider audience, this team are hard to beat. The three-strong cast (Kerry Frampton, Genevieve Day and Cordelia Stevenson) depict a multitude of characters between them, switching effortlessly from role to role with aplomb and utilising a selection of simple but ingenious costumes. Watching Kerry Frampton switch from a swaggering warrior to Penelope simply by the application of a white headscarf is an extraordinary thing, so accomplished it elicits gasps of astonishment. Meanwhile members of the predominantly young audience are enlisted to help out – a ‘storm orchestra’ periodically kicks up a rumpus, a young man in a poncho runs up and down telling the audience they’re all going to die and somebody else is called upon to keep a running tally of the carnage. Odysseus’s epic voyage is depicted by a series of titles pegged out on a washing line. And it all works brilliantly.
I’ve rarely seen a better example of how to involve an audience in a production and I generally don’t laugh this loud when called upon to watch a Greek myth. Splendid are an appropriately named company. Catch this show at The Lowry, Salford Quays, before it sets sail for new horizons. It’s legendary.