The Vaults is a cavernous multiplex of creative spaces and bars found in the graffitied corridors under train tracks leaving Waterloo. It oozes a cool friendliness akin to the warmest of creative hubs. Arrive early or stay late because you’ll want to spend a decent amount of time there. Ushered into one of the compartments branching off the central thoroughfare, one bloke lay dramatically prostrate before us. Reservations about melodramatic physical theatre and interpretive dance are quickly washed away when our bard, George Mann, arises to tell us the story of Homer’s Odyssey.
He springs to action, sucking my attention into his performance, his energy so strong and controlled that it is gravitational. I’m concerned that one man would not be able to keep my attention for the 70 minute duration of this show but my concerns are misplaced. He grabs me and doesn’t let me go. The story is not comprehensive, thank goodness, he saves us from the boring bits without sabotaging the core of the tale. Everyone will have their own opinions on what should make the cut but, to my knowledge, very few armchair classicists have longed for the repetition of the ritual gift-giving and pageantry in the middle of the book.
His stylised actions and tones are sometimes as lighthearted as the tweaked nipples of the nymph Calypso. At other times they are intense and instructive, the bells and whistles he adds to his movements allow us to follow the imagined staging his gestures mark out. There is a tangible energy to the whole show that allows him to sparkle without the need of anything beyond himself. Any extra bits would be a distraction.
There isn’t a moment I feel like seeing what is going on in the audience or what colour the ceiling is. The two boys know what they want to do and execute with minimal fuss, a slight lighting change here and a well-placed bit of music there does the trick. The most impressive sound effects don’t even come from the tech desk but from the passing trains above.
Mann and his director and co-writer, Nir Paldi, have won plenty of acclaim for this show and you can see why. It is a celebration of the storyteller, the audience are given a modern day bard whose physicality, voice and artistry are more than enough to paint a rich and original picture of an ancient and, dare I say it, often stuffy text. 4.5/5
Review written by Harry Davies.
The Odyssey is currently showing at the VAULT Festival until Sunday 1st March. For more information on the production, visit here…