The Odyssey: Missing Presumed Dead
by English Touring Theatre and Liverpool Everyman & Playhouse
Written by Simon Armitage
Directed by Nick Bagnall
Till 17th October 2015
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
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.