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Fringe review: Homer’s Odyssey: The Musical

Adelaide Fringe

Ageing Greek hero Odysseus retells the story of his adventures in song and narrative in this attractive retelling of Homer’s mythology by performer Loucas Loizou. ★★★

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Loucas Loizou plays Greek hero Odysseus deep into old age and declining gently in his palace on Ithaka. But people (the audience) have a habit of coming around in the afternoon asking him to retell his amazing story. He is, after all, the legend of his day and like any hero he just can’t resist; fame has always been the spur.

Homer, the attributed author of The Odyssey, would have played and sung his epic poem to an audience 2700 or so years ago, but Odysseus claims to be no poet so he tells his story in common prose as it comes to him.

From his embarkation to the war against Troy, to his invention of the ruse of the Trojan Horse and his own famous and turbulent 10-year voyage home, we hear of ill-advised raids, man-eating giants and monsters, witches, nymphs and a journey through Hades to meet the blind prophet Teiresias.

The tunnels of the Adina Treasury, with their aged stone walls and crumbling stucco, could easily be the cellars of some Mycenaean palace – a cool place to bring a flock of guests on a summer afternoon.

Loizou is a low-key narrator, working through the 20 years of mythological stories in about 57 minutes. His narrative is interspersed with original songs picked out on guitar and captivatingly sung in his soulful folk-style delivery. Some good ones include Achilles’ lament over the dead Patroclus (“It’s Better to Have Loved and Lost”) and a farewell love song to Circe.

The song list takes a sharp turn to the familiar when the yarn comes to Odysseus’s homecoming problems and Loizou launches into a full rendering of “We Shall Overcome”, but it is a tribute to the gentle rapport that the bard establishes with his audience that a suggested sing-along of “Kumbaya” (to celebrate Odysseus’s final victory) was immediately taken up with gusto.

This show is a mixed bag – there are some nice songs, good singing and a lively story, but dramatic effect could be enhanced by a sharper script and greater emphasis in the telling. Homer’s Odyssey does not quite match the power of Loucas’s rendering of Oedipus which I saw at last year’s Adelaide Fringe.

Homer’s Odyssey: The Musical will be presented in Adina Treasury Tunnels again on March 8 and 9, but it is also being performed in several other venues throughout the Fringe. See more Adelaide Fringe reviews and stories here.

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