We all know a bit about Ancient Greece, the Trojan Wars and that big wooden horse stuffed with soldiers. Homer probably hadn’t heard of slapstick. But the title of this performance, ‘Shodyssey’, suggests that the show would offer a mishmash of tales and pranks based on the Odyssey.
It started at 7pm at the Brighton Open Air Theatre with three actors on the semi-circular stage. We were sitting beneath a setting sun, a cloudy sky and a brush of autumn wind. But this wasn’t going to stop the hundred-plus audience, including plenty of enthusiastic children, who were ready to laugh and bellow.
“Good evening,” said the three actors.
In case you were wondering where you had left your Ladybird book of the Odyssey, there was no need to worry. The cast quickly put us at ease:
“We’ve read the Iliad so you don’t have to!”
Phew! This version of ancient events was written by Assembleth Theatre, a touring company from Plymouth formed in 2014. Our three actors – Josephine Helen, Cal Moffat and Plum Grosvenor-Stephen – managed to convey the great battles, debates and intrigues of the era with the minimum of props and the maximus of serious, silly, entertaining rants.
“I built a city where a cow fell down.” That’s a bit pompous isn’t it? And a puppet is thrown over a backstage screen in riposte.
Gods like Apollo were throwing death and plague at both Greeks and Romans. Hercules liked pushing boulders uphill but got distracted by a plastic toy. Then there was Hermes, the hippy with flying sandals, and Paris (the winged messenger of the Gods) who had perhaps transitioned to a man. Those Greeks were just so ahead of their time!
Next, the show set up a game show between gods and mortals with Hermes as host and Athena as contestant. A three-legged race began as an orange inflatable boat dropped onto the stage. The gods started singing “what shall we do with the drunken sailor?” instead of searching for Helen of Troy. It was suitably dark as the show drew to a close beside a Trojan Horse full of four hundred soldiers.
Maybe, at times, the cast tried to include too many prologues and rushed the excellent comedy. But ‘Shoddyssey’ provided farcical physical theatre full of absurdity for both adults and children. Get to their next show!
Brighton Open Air Theatre, Wednesday 14th September 2022
Photos by Assembleth Theatre