Odyssey by George Mann and Nir Paldi – Pleasance Dome, Edinburgh
Odyssey, a one-man performance of Homer by George Mann, needs no reviews to boost its prospects. Having run since 2009, it continues to sell out at the Fringe and attract awed crowds. Despite this success, however, Odyssey is a mannered and at times infuriating show. Mann is a highly demonstrative storyteller, accompanying his tale with illustrative sounds effects and gestures like a dancer. He gives a technically accomplished performance, but nothing is left unremarked. When an eagle soars there is a squawk, when waves break there is a splash. Like a beatboxer, Mann is adept at making sounds with no equipment other than himself. However, he leaves little to the imagination.
While some ideas work well – the deathly slow creaking of a mast, for example – the rush of effects quickly overwhelms the story, leaving the listener no room to think or breath. The show becomes about Mann’s performance, rather than the story he is telling. This is unfortunate because the Odyssey is a strange and troubling tale crying out for some examination. Instead, we have the audience applauding a hero who has just hung 12 servant girls as part of a grim revenge. Mann presents the Odyssey as a triumph of the storyteller’s art, but the story cannot stand still and the focus should be on the tale, not the teller.