24 April 2017 | 10 °C

Truly Epic: Mark Bruce Company's The Odyssey Reviewed

Mark Bruce Company's The Odyssey at Wilton's Music Hall ★★★★☆

Sarah Stewart
By Sarah Stewart Last edited 14 months ago
Truly Epic: Mark Bruce Company's The Odyssey Reviewed Mark Bruce Company's The Odyssey at Wilton's Music Hall 4
The Odyssey Cast (Photo courtesy Mark Bruce Company).
The Odyssey Cast (Photo courtesy Mark Bruce Company).

The sound of waves breaking on the shore, and smoky fog recede into the hazy lights of a far distant fairground, with a slowly turning Ferris wheel and a roller coaster. This is the atmospheric opening to Mark Bruce Company's The Odyssey, a powerful dance theatre retelling of Homer's epic. The result is redolent of the smoke, mirrors and rock 'n' roll, with all of the brutality, blood, sweat and dirt of a travelling carnival.

The work is challenging, particularly so as it is an adaptation of a complex, multi-layered and detailed plot which has been abstracted into its basic elements and distilled into dance. Yet the Mark Bruce Company rise to the challenge.

The epic battles, such as the attack on Troy (danced to Sonic Youth's explosive Mildred Pierce) clearly portray the savagery of conflict. The choreography is spot-on, precise and emotional. Witness the erotically-charged duets between the brooding Odysseus (Christopher Tandy) and the female leads — Hannah Kidd as a tortured, yet strong and enduring Penelope, Grace Jabbari as Calypso and Eleanor Duval as the enchantress Circe, and a watchful Immortal.

The duet between Odysseus and Poiseidon is truly elemental, as Odysseus is rolled and pushed by the force of the sea. It is the Immortals here who are in control, and who enable the battles and drama to unfold.

The dance duets between a sword-wielding Eleanor Duval and Christopher Akrill (who replaces an injured Joanthan Goddard) are full of wit and repartee as they plot their intrigue.

The work as a whole is powerfully cinematic and graphic, however, in its abstraction of the plot, some elements are lost in translation. Cyclops appears as a drunken 'dirty Santa', which injects an element of inappropriate cartoon humour, and there are several moments where Odysseus stares out into the audience, overly brooding. But the visual and aural power of the staging and music (many of the pieces written by Mark Bruce himself) and the sheer emotional energy of the dance make this Odyssey truly epic.

Mark Bruce Company is at Wilton's Music Hall until 19 March. Tickets: £15-£25, can be booked here or through the Wilton's Music Hall Box Office at 020 7702 2789. Londonist saw this production courtesy of a complimentary ticket. Strobe lighting and smoke are used throughout the performance.

Last Updated 27 February 2016