Homer’s Odyssey is the ultimate man’s adventure tale, bursting with heroism and Hellenism.
But this performance by two Canadian women sitting on stools, is storytelling at its finest. Jennifer Cayley and Jan Andrews are excellent raconteurs, two travellers who have captured something special of Odysseus’ quest to return home to Ithaca.
They’re in Melbourne as guests of the Midsumma Festival.
Their Odyssey is an abridged version of Homer’s words, starting with the bard’s advice that the story can begin anywhere. Taking that on, Andrews begins near the end, with Odysseus washed up on the shores of Phaeacia, nearly dead from fatigue.
In this story, the audience wake with the hero, we are cleansed in his rejuvenation at the hands of Princess Nausicaa.
Then, Cayley whisks us back to the Cyclops, and her rendition of the one-eyed monster is enthralling and terrifying. Finally, Andrews takes Odysseus home to Ithaca, and tells the story of Penelope and her suitors.
The structure is rewarding, using the drama of the three stories to imply a sense of the epic heroism that encompasses them. For many of us, the idea of concentrating on two people telling a story for so long is as foreign and as terrifying as a Cyclops.
From the moment Andrews begins to speak, her incantation is strong and soothing. There is something therapeutic about being told a good story, and this is simply a wonderful ancient story, expertly told.
The performance was as relaxing as a warm shower and as engaging as a conversation with an old friend. (A one night show only)