ODYSSEYKarlsson Haus, St. Petersburg
Director: Alexei Lelyavsky
Set designer: Alexander Vakhrameev
Performance on counterpoint. The great epic composed by Homer in the infancy of mankind. And a tiny Petersburg theatre with an ironic name. Two young actors. Tiny dolls made in three-color scheme. Several barrels as scenery. It is a paradox but using such laconic means the artists achieve the desired effect: hum in barrels really reminds the boiling sea full of dangers, and from the barrel to the barrel you still have to swim without accident. The return of the Greeks to their homeland would not be possible without their heroism and cunningness, but without the irony of the young theatre treating Odysseus’s life as an adventure it is not possible either.
For some reason heroes are looked upon as people who are no longer alive: as if they are not made of flesh and blood, and feelings, common for people, are not for them, they never doubt anything, they never contemplate anything. They are great, heroic. Leaders, showing the way. “Heroes”, “great people” are like that.
And when I came across a text where everything is the other way around, I was very happy. It turned out that the story of Homer’s Odyssey can be told in a simple, clear language. As a story of a family: Odyssey – father, Penelope – mother, Telemakh – their son. A story of travels and waiting. A story about how difficult it is to live and hope, and how much joy there is in being together.
Alexey Lelyavsky’s production falls under the category 12+, but it can easily be watched by anyone over the age of 10, because the myth of Ancient Greece is treated here clearly and purely… Pure black-and-white space (the setting consists of iron barrels only), two actors in black, a couple dozens of puppets – in white, clear speech, smooth narration and even deviations from it (jokes) – accurate and chaste. Narrators speak ironically at the characters, yet even this irony is soft and polite. They give us two points of view on the story: the one of Odyssey and the one of Telemakh. There is no loud clash, but questions are asked which certainly (most certainly!) all of us had when we read the story Why didn’t Odyssey come back home after his first feat? He had a good time on Circe’s island, but what about Penelope? And how close to life is the scene between husband and wife, when to Penelope’s question “Were you unfaithful to me?” Odyssey mumbles something like “What’s with you, come to bed”. And in her short answer you can hear the wisdom of all women, accepting their shrewd odysseys after all their possible feats.
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