Physical theatre comes alive

editorial image

EVENT: Odyssey

VENUE: Hull Truck Theatre

REVIEW BY: Catherine Goble

A one-man production of The Odyssey? It couldn’t be done, I thought.

How wrong I was.

George Mann, a graduate of Royal Holloway’s excellent drama course, transformed himself from Odysseus to Telemachus, from Penelope to Calypso, from goddess Athena to Cyclops Polyphemus, and back again, with consummate ease.

This was physical theatre at its very best. A repeated movement, gesture or sound and the audience instantly knew which character he was portraying at that moment, as he switched seamlessly from one to the next.

The enthusiasm this man had for his craft was incredible. He never let up either his narrative or his boundless energy around the stage as he told the tale of Odysseus’ voyage and the people he encountered along the way, the suitors’ story and the hero’s return to his homeland of Ithaca, in the space of one hour.

I know Homer’s poem very well, which was possibly a bonus in being able to follow what was happening, with the action taking place at lightning speed to get it all in. However, this approach also added to the general urgency of the story and made me feel as though I was being swept along on a tidal wave with Odysseus as he desperately tried to get back home after 19 years away from his family.

The intimate surroundings of the studio at Hull Truck were perfect for the fabrication of this individual interpretation of the famous adventure, with the stage neither swamping the actor, nor the 30-strong audience overtaking the venue.

We were drawn in to the expertly- executed performance and hooked from the moment it started to the moment it finished, ending with a generous round of applause from us highly-appreciative spectators.

We knew we had witnessed dramatic brilliance.

It is very rare to be able to experience such perfectly-perpetrated physicality in theatre nowadays, so Mann’s masterpiece was a joy to watch. Not content with using his body to illustrate this fable, the sound effects he verbally created to relay the shooting of arrows or the stormy seas made this production even more real.

It is no surprise he was named best solo performer by industry newspaper ‘The Stage’ at the Edinburgh Festival in 2009 - with this same show - after forming his own small touring company ‘Theatre Ad Infinitum’ three years earlier.

The 28-year-old actor is one very talented man and definitely someone on whom to keep an eye. Just be careful he doesn’t blind it with a wooden stake.