Thursday, October 27, 2005


Is it over? Can I go now?

Yes, after 17 days, as many events and a total of around 20 hours with my derriere en-chaired in a Festival seat, my Odyssey is over.

It was fitting that my Melbourne Festival experience (tm) ended with Malthouse Theatre's Odyssey, then, despite plans to see things afterwards. A heavy dose of flu smacked me upside the viewing capacities early Saturday morning, which ruled out the 12 hour line-dancing cowboys of Lone Twin which I'd hoped to catch a peek at Saturday afternoon, and by the time the MIAF wrap party rolled along that night I was well into the realms of sickness-inspired delirium. In fact, I apparently had a number of phone conversations that night of which I have no recollection.

But Friday night was the Odyssey, and it, well, it wasn't what I'd hoped. It was entertaining enough, sure. There was a lot going on, and it didn't really feel like it's two-hour-plus running time, but I have to agree with a few people I spoke to afterwards who couldn't really work out the point behind it. It was more a collection of images which seemed motivated by visual interest, rather than a pressing story with the kind of dramatic drive that would explain the epic's abiding popularity over a few millenia. I'm not that familiar with the text, but I know the gist. In fact it would be hard not to, seeing how much contemporary stuff has used it as a base or inspiration. But a lot of scenes seemed not to say "look how we've interpreted this bit", instead saying "look how we've dressed this bit". Half-goddess of sex and death Circe in Nazi drag! Athena as a sailor-suited child! Me as a confused spectator!

I didn't think it was at all bad (unlike one friend, a drama teacher, who had to leave at interval in disgust). But I didn't think it was that good, either. It didn't really occasion much of a response, to be honest. I was hoping for a dramatic reaction, but couldn't muster one (Geoffrey Rush and Robert Menzies sat behind me, and I was gunning for them to come out with a bold comment once the lights came up, but they left in absolute silence. No help there, fellas!)

Maybe it was only because I'd had such a great festival with more than a handful of highlights; maybe I was spoiled. If I'd seen The Odyssey sometime earlier in the year, it would probably have stood out a lot more. As it is, though, it didn't.

And with that, I put the whole Festival to bed, turned out the lights and shut the door.

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