The Odyssey: Missing Presumed Dead

Presented by English Touring Theatre and Liverpool Everyman & Playhouse
Written by Simon Armitage
Directed by Nick Bagnall
Liverpool Everyman
Till 17th October 2015

Reviewed by Colin Serjent
Photograph by Gary Calton

I found this production ludicrous and pretentious at times. What surprised me the most was the often banal dialogue written by such an esteemed poet in the shape of Simon Armitage.

Apparently Armitage used the works of Homer to turn this into a political 'drama', relating them to contemporary issues and events, including the issue of migrants fleeing conflicts of war.

The play gets off to an unbelievable start when high ranking cabinet minister Smith (Colin Tierney) - a saving grace of his performance was that it reminded me of Antony Hopkins in his younger days - being coerced into going to Istanbul to represent England in a vital World Cup qualifying game. Surely the Government Sports Minister would have wanted to go instead.?

Anyhow, Smith gets caught up in an incident in a Turkish bar after the match, which has far reaching repercussions around the world.

Because of the sensitive nature of what Smith is alleged to have done, the Europhobic Prime Minister (Simon Dutton) disavows him and leaves him adrift of any concern on his part.

Smith is also literally adrift on a raft (this is when the story transforms us to Homeric times) when he assumes the character of Odysseus. He and his companions are all characters from that period in time seeking land and sanctuary.

In the present day Smith is a politician on an upward curve, while in the past he is the epic figure of Odysseus, who triumphs against the devilish figure of Cyclops.

Smith's one aim is to get back to Blighty and the company of his wife Penelope (Susie Trayling), who, in another farcical aspect of the play, has given the ok for red top journalists and photographers, covering the story of her husband's disappearance, to stay with her in her palatial home!!

The absurdity grows worse in the second act when Smith's whinging son Magnus (Lee Armstrong), still attending school at 18, suddenly pops up in a Parliamentary restaurant as a waiter, refusing to serve a drink to the PM, and then lambasted him for his failed attempts to find his dad.

The one highlight in an underwhelming production was the appearance of the bogy man, the one-eyed figure of Cyclops, midway through the first act, in the shape of a giant head and hands.

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