March 30 – April 21, 2013
Written by Margaret Atwood
Directed by Brenda Bazinet
Choreographed by Dayna Tekatch
Designed by Bretta Gerecke
Now at the Citadel, playing in Maclab Theatre, The Penelopiad is a brave feminist retelling of Greek tragedy in a modern version of Homer’s classic The Odyssey.
Written by Margaret Atwood, and adapted for the stage, The Penelopiad is a fantastic fusion of contemporary theatre and early Greek drama. As pointed out in The Penelopiad’s program, early Greeks invented western drama, its early days rooted in a minimal number of actors (playing multiple characters). Directress Brenda Bazinet does the Greeks and Atwood proud with gorgeous choruses, onstage set, and costume changes, and a clever update of the old mythic glories of gods and monsters, epic love, and human catastrophe. The lovely twist of an all goddess cast makes this version exceptionally stunning, with flowing Mediterranean costumes and sharp feminine wits putting a new spin on the age old saga of King Odyseuss and his two decade absence, off both to Trojan War and further exploits.
Comical male stereotypes are wonderfully inflated from these fairest of maidens’ perspectives, adding humour to the original pathos and giddy sarcasm to tall tales of heroism. Harmony filled choruses build the story around Penelope’s protagonist, whose loyalty and virtue to her husband reach exceeding heights amid domestic unrest in Ithaca. Trusting in her besties, twelve of her truest handmaidens, she reluctantly feigns no hope for her husband’s return to stave off a gluttony of uncouth suitors, much to the chagrin of her son and his nursemaid.
When Odysseus returns a bloodbath ensues, Penelope’s suitors and maidens both being cleansed from the palace. Watching the ladies fake fight made the climax battle scene especially entertaining, the stage littered with dead weight of sprite like beauties.
Despite the maidens having been loyal to their king and queen, they were unfairly hung and undefended by Penelope. Their spooky zombie-like spirits pledge to never leave her side again, forever frightening Odyseuss away from her arms and prolonging the yearning of an eternally desperate housewife.
Featuring an all-female ensemble, participants of the 2012/2013 Citadel/Banff Centre Professional Theatre Program, The Penelopiad is well worth the ticket, a classy play with delicious dashes of physical and musical theatre. Smart, sexy, and cynical at the same time, it is the best kind of drama.