The Odyssey, an arduous journey

The Odyssey, an arduous journey

“These tears are human, they make me a man”. These profound words of mighty Odysseus rang through the Piccolo Teatro of Milan touching each audience member with a distinct lyrical force. Such is the arduous journey of The Odyssey. 

From October 6th-31st,The Odyssey, the ancient poem by Homer, co-produced by the Piccolo Teatro of Milan and the National Theatre of Greece in Athens, reinterpreted by the poet Simon Armitage and directed by Robert Wilson, comes to life on stage in Milan.

Performed completely in Greek, it was a delight not only for the eyes but ears. ExpoinCittà has the unique ability to bring together a multitude of events such as these. Languages, cultures, experiences all molded into one perception.

The Odyssey, is not necessarily a profound piece of work in relation to its prose, yet it is significant for the simple reason that it exists. Such is due to its antiquity and pervasiveness. It mesmerizes yet shocks us with its storytelling. From Odysseus with his bravey; to Penelope’s longing; to Calypso’s seduction and Athena’s guidance, every moment is intriguing simply based on the audience’s ability to stare at the relatable struggle of the human condition.

The poem’s protagonist, Odysseus, is constantly looking east towards Ithaca, hoping to return home after the Trojan war. With his vibrating utterances, “I am Odysseus, son of Laetes! Known the world over for cunning and strength!” shouting over and over again, presenting himself in all his glory. “And my home is Ithaca! I’ve got lost. I’ve got lost”. He is suffering from human desires amongst the presence of gods. “Tiresias will I ever reach home?” says Odysseus “Can you restrain the desires of your men?” replies Tiresias.

The New York Times has described director Robert Wilson as, “a towering figure in the world of experimental theater and an explorer of the uses of time and space on the stage”. Wilson’s talent was apparent in stage direction and establishing the visual vernacular connection between antiguity and modernity.

This performance was a visual vernacular of what Greek mythology and Odysseus would come to be in theatrical form. I particularly enjoyed how the actors exuded an over exaggeration of facial expressions, which were sometimes accompanied by staccato music, to draw the audience in to stare and achieve full expression of the present moment as well as the deterioration of it.  

The characters, especially Odysseus, presented themselves with almost robotic, statuesque movements. If was as if they were Greek statutes in human form. Each scene was a journey in itself. Accompanied by the use of light to emphasize the characters and use of dark to show their silhouettes. Moreover, it was clear the actors had a pure awareness of the human form. The alignment and posture of their bodies was impeccably elegant.

In regards to the reinterpretation, Simon Armitage is a poet with a strong knowledge of the meaning of Homer’s prose. He enhanced the Homeric poem, transforming it into rich dialogues: between gods and men; from the brave Ulysses and his unmangeable companions and opponents. He has brought to life the great journey that is not only a poem but also the "story of stories". Each stanza is truly a poem within a poem.

Odysseus suffers many hardships, “I saw heads rise and sink, rise and sink then rise no more,” on his lamentation of losing his men at sea. Yet, on his arrival home to Ithaca, thanks to Athena, Odysseus finally finds peace, “You’re my home Penelope. You’re my Ithaca”. Such is why Milano is a place to BE.

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