There is a magical world of adventure and intrigue hidden beneath your kitchen sink. At least, that’s what you’ll come to realise from seeing master puppeteer Philippe Genty’s imaginative retelling of the classic Greek myth.
Ever looked at a cut-off broom and thought that would make a really good mast for a ship? Or seen a bottle opener and exclaimed: “Why, that’s the spitting image of philandering explorer Ulysses (also known as Odysseus)?” Don’t worry if not, because Genty and his delightful bunch of performers have done it for you.
In a piece that would suit a family audience but isn’t exclusively for them, everyday objects are turned into funny little characters, props and a dazzling miniature set on an azure-blue tabletop sea. Corkscrew Ulysses’ crew are sweets and biscuits wrapped in metallic foil; minions, who are often getting torn in half or thrown away.
Everything is disposable, rustled up by the ever visible cast who use their own bodies and the “puppets” as one, in the style Genty is famous for. They are both narrators and clowns, battling over who gets to play the wandering adventurer, living the characters as much as the household items they’re holding do.
The goddess Circe is a salacious cabbage in the ocean, the sirens’ shrieks are the sound of deflating balloons whirring through the air and, on Calypso’s island, Ulysses spends so long in a bath filled with washing-up liquid that he turns into a bar of soap. “I’m not an object,” he cries. When he finally gets home to Penelope, sparklers become the arrows shot from his famous bow.
Through retelling the story in such an unexpected way, Genty and his team make it feel fresh again. They remind you of the childhood thrill of encountering, for the first time, the fantastic worlds and characters that make up one of our strongest and most enduring myths.
With The Paper Cinema’s equally inventive Odyssey at Summerhall, this is one of two pieces at the Fringe that reimagine Homer’s classic while simultaneously reminding us of just how good it is.
Written for The Scotsman