Splendid Productions

The Odyssey

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17/11/15

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.

4.8 stars

Philip Caveney

Woyzeck

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17/08/14

Gilded Balloon Teviot, Edinburgh

Splendid Productions’ version of Woyzeck is a real triumph. I have a head full of superlatives, and don’t know where to start.

Well, unlike Splendid, I’ll start at the beginning. The actors are on stage, not in-role, and interacting with the audience. They greet us, make sure we’re comfortable, ask someone to hold a mirror while they finish their make-up. They explain what they are doing (“We’re setting it up so that we can make a tonal change in a minute”), and there is such wit and warm-heartedness in the approach that it’s impossible not to smile.

And then they go to the end. The murder scene. There’s a numbered caption board telling us that this is scene 23, and what happens in it, and there are three actors and there’s a stage full of props. Sound effects are produced on stage in front of us. Costume changes too. The caption cards change with every scene, and the chronology is all over the place. There’s music and singing, and audience participation. We are made to feel complicit in the killing and in Woyzeck’s destruction; why don’t we intervene and stop it? And it’s marvellous, all of it. Brechtian brilliance. Fourth wall ripped away. Lively, confrontational, exciting and joyous. The best thing I’ve seen at this year’s Fringe.

Thank you, Splendid. I’ll be coming to see this again when you go on tour.

5 stars

Susan Singfield