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11 Feb 13

An Odyssey Into One's Own Lost World

Through the story of ancient hero, this play speaks of all the modern wanderers who flee reality and draw up ‘false maps’ to prevent themselves from admitting they are lost.

Nemanja Cabric
BIRN Belgrade
Photo Courtesy of Srpsko Narodno Pozoriste

As the play starts, the actors and musicians come out on stage through the ear of a large stone head, recalling the birth of Athens from the head of Zeus.

The first scenes show a world out of joint – Ithaca occupied, Odysseus's son powerless and confused, and the Gods determined to punish the hero.

Still, the musicians play a sentimental song about a home that exists “there where I hang my hat,” contributing to an idyllic atmosphere.

We first find the hero at dinner, imprisoned on the island of the nymph Calypso – not looking like an army leader or war veteran, but a sad old beggar, holding a tooth that fell from his mouth.

“I might throw this tooth in the air for some bird to catch and take it to the goods to show them how feeble is the material of which they made humans,” he cries out.

While Athena encourages him to head for Ithaca, his pregnant nymph draws him from the idea.

However, Odysseus’s longing for home wins over Calypso’s spells and he starts his well-known journey.

Although many scenes align with the epic poem by Homer and well-known Greek myths, the spice that gives the context to the play is its poetry and music.

Songs by the Macedonian alternative band Foltin highlight Odysseus's egocentrism and cheap idealism, as well as his former power.

The root of all of his wandering lies in his head. In Odysseus’s mind he is the true conqueror of Troy, innocent of all the crimes he committed and a victim of a conspiracy both by men and gods.

“Who are you? Who are you working for?” is one of the most frequent lines that he throws at characters he meets on the way.

However, his arrival at Ithaca, which should represent a happy ending, turns into a sad lament on the transient nature of things.

Everything has changed – Ithaca’s soil, his faithful dog, which now wears glasses and hardly moves, and his unfaithful wife, who has grown old.

“This is not the Ithaca I wanted to return to,” Odysseus cries to Athena.

“Neither you are the same Odysseus,” she replies, underlining the main point of the play.

Later his wife says much the same thing, when she refuses to fall into her husband’s spread arms, ready to embrace her.

“Why do you think you deserved me to be faithful for ten years?”, she asks her long-absent husband.

Penelope, in a way, concludes the play by saying that Odysseus is not longing for Ithaca but the opposite; he uses Ithaca in his wanderings, as a favourite place to avoid.

The play stars a long list of well-known actors from Macedonia, Croatia, Slovenia and Serbia: Ozren Gabaric, Anita Mancic, Jasna Djuricic, Natasa Matjasec Rosker, Svetozar Cvetkovic, Boris Isakovic, Branko Jordan, Dijana Vidusin, Franjo Dijak and Nikola Ristanovski.

The members of Foltin, playing guitars and accordion and singing, mix songs from their various albums, with the accent on Penelope X (2011), which deals with the same story as the play.

This somewhat postmodern version of Odyssey, rich with comical scenes is a large regional coproduction.

The play was done in cooperation between the Ulysses theatre owned by Rade Serbedzija, Gavella from Zagreb, Slovensko narodno gledalisce from Maribor, Atelje 212 from Belgrade, and Srpsko narodno pozoriste in Novi Sad.

Macedonian writer Goran Stefanoski wrote the script, while Aleksandar Popovski directed it.

The show premiered last year on the island of Brioni and later moved to Zagreb, Maribor finally Novi Sad where was on the repertoaire last November and then again on February 7 and 8. Show will be performed in Viena on February 12.




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