My Father, Odysseus at the Unicorn Theatre
Continuing their mission to create exciting and relatable youth-aimed productions, Unicorn Theatre’s My Father, Odysseus puts a new spin on Homer’s age-old tale. Penned by Timberlake Wertenbaker and full of raucous hip-hop music, spirited laughs and moments of surprising depth and tenderness, it shines a light on some of the less discussed and more currently relevant aspects of the tale.
Telemachus (Theo Solomon) agonises over his missing father, while his mother, Penelope (Charlotte De Bruyne), is hounded by suitors who’ve set up shop in their home. Odysseus’ absence has been felt keenly and, eventually, spurred on by Athena, Telemachus decides to leave and seek out his long missing father. Odysseus’ part, meanwhile, is very much a truncated version of the Odyssey, but he is far from the gallant trickster hero many will be familiar with. This Odysseus is aged, left muddled by war and his wanderings. The retelling truly highlights how universal the core of the story is: the absent, almost mythic father, the son left behind, uncertain of his place in the world or even how to be a man. For Telemachus, it’s very much a coming-of-age tale as he muses on masculinity and what it constitutes. For Odysseus, it’s an examination of war and its effects as well as masculinity and it’s changing meanings. Penelope, too, has more of a voice here; most of what we hear from her is in relation to her son and husband, but this in itself is acknowledged in her powerful closing speech.
The toxicity of the more accepted brand of masculinity (the kind that deals in warfare and bloodshed and disrespecting those that fall outside that spectrum) is a problem and it’s heartening to see that dealt with and acknowledged in a production aimed at teenagers. The play is peppered with anachronisms and modern twists, giving it that truly enjoyable – and more relatable – flair, particularly in the choice of music, which will appeal immediately to a younger audience. Performances are strong throughout; De Bruyne is quietly powerful and Solomon does an excellent job of portraying Telemachus’ uncertainty. True, it could be argued that, ultimately, all the pondering on masculinity comes to nothing but, in the end, My Father, Odysseus is short and punchy, and it’s certainly worth a watch.
My Father, Odysseus is on at the Unicorn Theatre from 13th March until 10th April 2016, for further information or to book visit here.
Watch the trailer for My Father Odysseus here: